Thyme and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

Thyme and Cheddar Scallopped PotatoesCheesy. Potatoes.

That’s really all you need to know.

These are the kind of potatoes that say, I ♥ you, therefore I give you cheese.

Garlicky, herby, creamy cheese.

Oh, and carbs. Nothing says love like carbs.

I love you and I’m thankful for you: so I made you carb-y, cheesy, super thinly sliced potatoes baked to golden, crunchy-on-top perfection.

If you’re looking for a side for your Thanksgiving turkey, try them.

If you’re all set for Thanksgiving, and you’re looking for something to go with sliders and hot dogs for your next football party? Try them.

If you just want a different side to go with your meatloaf, because your tired of mashed potatoes. . . Yup. Try them.

If you’re a vegetarian and you don’t eat sliders or hot dogs or turkey or meatloaf and you want something to go with your. . . what do you eat? Beans? Yes. . . try them.

BTW – Tyler Florence? Thank you for the original recipe and your stylishly coiffed hair. Both have made life significantly more enjoyable.

Sooo.

Pretend there is a super apropos segue here – and not the kind the mall cops ride around on. I mean words that lead you nicely and smoothly into another subject.

Oh Look!

Here we are.

What were we talking about?

Oh yes. Change.

Life is changing, schedules are changing, activities are changing, and things will be changing here too.

Namely: topics.

I’ve realized that if I want to keep up here, then the subject matter is going to have to adjust along with me, so. . . weird?

We’ll still have food of course, but I chuckle when I think about how I’ve submitted myself to a total  food coup. It’s completely taken over.

In the beginning of all these cooking/blogging shenanigans, I imagined food would comprise about one-third of the content here, but obviously, I didn’t have a firm grip on my own obsessions. (It was also here that I discovered my weakness for chocolate. . .  to which I was somehow oblivious for my entire life up untill then.)

Food was central to our lives (well, it still pretty much is. . . ). It was happening all the time (still does), it’s what I loved (still do), and it was easy (enough) because I could “work” while the kiddos were away for their day at school (really, really, NOT so much anymore). As daily schedules would have it, my quiet cooking time has almost ceased to exist (as has interruption-free photography time). At the same time, old loves are re-emerging (art – with serious kid orientation), and new loves (the local homeless community) are meeting me where I’m at.

It’s no surprise, really –  I’ve talked about some of it before – I just never knew the W’s of it all (who, what, when, where. . .).

But it’s finally come together, and with a bit of a story to boot.

So I’ll share with you the parts I’m allowed to share. I’ll take you on the journey from the beginning – which was actually quite a while ago and a bit haphazard. It might come off a bit like a ride through a funky time warp (count this as your preemptive warning).

Our range of topics here will increase to equal Food+. Plus what, you say? Plus anything we want, I say.Thyme and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

The world blogosphere is our oyster.

From here on out, we will be about food and all the other things too.

I hope you’ll stick around.

And before I go – the recipe for the potatoes, lest I come off the wrong way – food will always remain!

Thyme and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 8 servings

Don't worry if you don't have a 10" cast iron skillet, or if you need to make a larger batch. You can easily double the recipe and bake it in a 9"x13" casserole dish. I'd be leaving out important information too, if I didn't admit that I started day dreaming about a more potent cheese in this recipe. . . Don't be afraid to try Gruyere - or maybe Fontinella. . . the options are nearly endless!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 sprigs of fresh Thyme
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • salt (to taste), and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • butter - enough to coat skillet
  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes (I used a mix of Russet and Yukon Gold. 1 medium Russet, and 3 smallish Yukon Golds)
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered and very thinly sliced.
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup (heaping!!) shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese

Directions

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a 10" cast-iron skillet with butter.

In a medium saucepan combine the cream, thyme, bay leaves, garlic cloves, and nutmeg.

Heat cream mixture slowly over medium-low heat. Whisk to combine, and taste when warm. Add desired salt and pepper. Keep hot, but do not simmer or boil, while slicing the potatoes.

Meanwhile, wash and peel the potatoes and slice them very thin (I used a Mandolin set at 1).

Place the sliced potatoes and thinly sliced onion in a large bowl. Remove and discard the solids from the cream mixture using a slotted spoon. Whisk in the cheddar cheese until melted and integrated well. Pour the cream and cheese mixture over the potatoes, stirring gently (and using clean hands if necessary), to make sure each potato slice gets a coating of the cream mixture. Add in 1/2 cup of the grated parmesan cheese and mix again. Spoon potato and cream mixture into the skillet. Arrange into an even layer. Pour remaining cream over the top, and sprinkle with the last 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake, covered with foil for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for about 20-25 more minutes, or until bubbly and top is golden brown.

Source

Sara|Home is Where the Cookies are, adapted from Tyler Florence

https://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/11/12/thyme-and-cheddar-scalloped-potatoes/

Easy Homemade* Tomato Herb Soup

Easy Homemade* Tomato Herb Soup

I just got lost in Facebook for a whole episode of Doc McStuffins while our Littlest snuggled into a pile of blankets on the floor (I managed to jinx ourselves into sickness. I JUST thought to myself two days ago, “Wow. It’s already Halloween, and we haven’t had a bug yet this year. . . . Touché, mother nature, touché.)

This is why I stink at Facebook: basically, I fear it will suck my life away, so I avoid it like the plague – or, erm, a stomach bug.

But I love to hate Facebook so much that I joined Instagram too.

Just now.

Like minutes ago.

This makes no sense, you say?

Well, I’m not the spouse who went to med school folks.

I’m the spouse who went to art school; logic doesn’t always play a significant role in my actions.

So I’m there. On Instagram now.

I have no idea how to use it, which totally makes me feel like a wicked-old fart.

I see hashtags, but I thiiiiink the hashtags have more to do with being linked to Twitter.

Which, btw Twitter, watch out, bc #yourenext.

So – Instagrammy.

If you wish to join me there, you can find me here. (I believe so anyway, there’s no way I can confirm nor deny this currently. . . . If you try and fail, let me know. If you try and succeed, I’ll see you there.)

I’ve got one super awesome picture of a paper pumpkin up there. Mostly because I had no idea what else to post at the moment. It was sort of a tester.

“Testing, one, two, pumpkin. Testing, testing. . . . ”

So anyway.

Tomato soup.

It’s super easy – and I only * the ‘homemade’ part, because, well, we’re starting with tomatoes from a carton (and chicken broth from a can if you don’t have homemade stock on hand) instead of from the garden (or your own chicken), which means three things:

1. They’re tomatoes like these**, which means we’re dealing with nothing but tomatoes ⇒ *healthy!*Easy Homemade Tomato Herb Soup

2. Because they’re from a carton, there’s no need for all the steps that go into getting smooth tomato soup, it’s just smooth anyway. So, snip open a carton, and we’re good to go.

3. We can have this soup any time of year, summer or not, in a matter of minutes; so when it’s blustering snow outside and nothing sounds better than a steaming bowl of out-of-season-tomato soup and a grilled cheese? Looky here, folks. This recipe is your ticket.

***I harp on these tomatoes all the time. No, they’re not paying me (but they should), I just love them.

Easy Homemade* Tomato Herb Soup

Total Time: 30 minutes

This recipe originally came from my friend Meredith a few years ago. We've been eating it ever since, with just a few changes to lighten it up a little bit and adapt it to our family's preferences.

Ingredients

  • 2 (26 ounce) cartons Pomi Strained Tomatoes (Or something similar- just tomatoes, no sugar, salt, or preservatives)
  • 3 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock (or 2 14.5 ounce cans low sodium chicken broth)
  • 20 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • fresh chives, chopped, for garnish

Directions

Add tomatoes and broth to a large saucepan, stir, and bring to a boil. Recuce heat, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add chopped basil and sugar. Stir. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream and butter. Cook until butter is melted. Top each serving with fresh chives.

Source

Sara|Home is Where The Cookies Are, via Meredith K.

https://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/10/30/easy-homemade-tomato-herb-soup/

Our Favorite Roast Chicken

Favorite Roast Chicken|Home Is Where The Cookies Are

Can we just agree that life always seems to come back around to being crazy?

Always.

Sometimes there is an ebb, sometimes a flow, but Crazy always makes his way back.

Sometimes we might be fooled into thinking if we can just get over the hump, all of a sudden we will be standing in the greener pasture, a fresh breeze will be blowing, our kids will be skipping gleefully through the wildflowers and maybe even holding hands – and our schools will initiate a no homework policy. Forever and ever, Amen.

Ahhh. If only. . . .

But then, the hump never comes, it just changes. And we go through the cycle again.

So, we’re in another cycle now, and I’m coming out of the kicking/screaming/crying about it phase, and going back into the embracing it/making it work phase, which means . . . planning ahead.

That’s where dinners make a huge difference.

That’s where roasting two chickens at once so you can have one today, leftovers tomorrow, and chicken soup, enchiladas, or chicken pesto pasta a few days down the road makes a mama happy.

And what do we all know? A happy mama makes a happy home.

I’m not going to get all wordsy at you right now.

Mostly because roast chicken doesn’t need to be a wordsy thing, (spell-check is also telling me that “wordsy” is not a word. Whatevs, “spell-check”) but also because there are ideas and inspirations percolating in my deep-heart, quiet places and I’m waiting for them to come full circle before I blab about them.

But the chicken. . . .

Favorite Roast Chicken|Home Is Where The Cookies Are

The basics for the recipe came from my sister – the method, the cooking time, the loose suggestions for brine and rub ingredients, and this is the combo we’ve been using since I first made it and my family practically cried out in unison, “Can you please only ever make this roast chicken?!”

This chick’s got everything a good chick should have – super moist savory meat, delightfully golden, flavor-packed, crispy skin, and an aroma that just plain says, “We’re home, and we’re cozy tonight”.

It’s a hands down favorite. It’s pretty. It’s delicious enough for company and easy enough (with planning ahead) to make on a school night, and certainly fancy enough for Sunday Supper. (And let us not forget – it makes great leftovers.) I have yet to truly mess it up – because even when I messed it up, it still got rave reviews. My mother-in-law even admitted to me that she’d entertained ideas of asking me to cook one ahead for her and she’d come pick it up.

She lives 60 miles away.

You might want to try it.

Our Favorite Roast Chicken

Prep Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Our Favorite Roast Chicken

As my sister said, "This sounds complicated, but it's actually pretty easy. It's probably only 20 minutes of prep, total". It's true - you just need to think ahead a little. Be sure to allow time for the brining, anywhere from 4-24 hours, then allow a total of 2 hours for prepping, cooking, and resting the chicken before you carve it. (In the cooking times listed above, I've included the minimum brining time, the prep time, and I've added the resting time in with the cooking time, so when you're planning ahead you can make time for each step). Also, in this recipe, I've not specified a specific weight of bird. I find that they're all pretty average sized (I usually buy the Coleman Organic Whole Chickens from Costco), and as long as you are using a meat theremometer as your guide, the size doesn't matter so much.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, average sized (I like to do two at a time. if you're doing two, get them slightly smaller, so they can fit in the brine bowl together. Then increase brine ingredients by 1/2, and double the rub ingredients so you have enough for both birds.)
  • For the brine:
  • 2 cups of water (plus more later, and some ice)
  • 1/3 cup table salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 peeled and roughly chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • For the "rub":
  • 3 tablespoons butter, mostly melted (I use salted butter, and I find the herbs mix in best if it's not completely melted, but slightly drippy, and more like thick cream.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, preferably pressed, but finely minced would be ok too, or garlic powder would be ok in a pinch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme (rubbed between palms)
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste ( I do about a half teaspoon)
  • 1/2 lemon

Directions

For the brine:

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of water and next 5 ingredients (through peppercorns). Bring to a boil.

While you're waiting for the brine to boil, get a large bowl (think mixing bowl or popcorn bowl) and fill it with about 6-8 cups of ice. (you can skip this step if you have time to allow your brine to cool to room temperature before submerging your chicken).

Once the brine boils, pour it over the ice and allow it to melt, then stir to mix well.

Prep the chicken by removing anything from the inside - gizzards, pouches, neck pieces, etc).

Put the chicken in the brine, breast down. If the chicken is not completely covered by the brine, add enough water to make it so. Cover, and refrigerate overnight if you have time. (If not, I've found 4-6 hours to be good too.)

When you're ready to cook the chicken, Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse it with water. Pat it completely dry with paper towels (this makes for crispy skin). Place it on a roasting rack in a roasting pan, breast side up, and wings tucked back (if you want - I don't always do this).

For the rub:

Combine mostly melted butter, garlic, and spices (I usually just give it a quick stir with a fork).

Slowly pour the melted butter mixture over the chicken, using a rubber spatula or your fingers to rub evenly over the skin. Save a little for the bottom too, and if you have a little left over, drip it inside the cavity as well. Squeeze the half lemon inside the chicken cavity, and leave the squeezed half inside while roasting. At this point, if you like, you can tie the legs together with kitchen twin - or not. Either way works.

Place the chicken in the oven and cook at 500 degrees F for about 18 minutes. Then, turn the heat down to 400 degrees, or 350 if you have more time available. After 40 - 50 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and, in the thickest part of the breast meat, test with a meat thermometer. The temperature must read 160 degrees before you can remove it for resting (as it rests, temperature will rise to a safe 170 degrees). If it's not at 160, pop it back in the oven and cook it a little longer. Once your thermometer reads 160, remove the chicken from the oven and tent it with foil for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, carve it, and eat!

Source

Sara, via her sister, Jill|Home is Where The Cookies Are

https://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/10/16/our-favorite-roast-chicken/

Farro and Herb Roasted Mushroom Salad Bowl

Farro and Herb Roasted Mushroom Salad Bowl

The September edition of BH&G came in the mail the other day.

It’s the Stylemaker issue.

I’m pretty sure this is supposed to excite and giddify me. I’m probably supposed to be eagerly anticipating the next great inspiration for the mantle I don’t have.

I think “they” expect that I’ll be all amped up and ready to do something great and colorful to my “space” with paint, because it’s the easiest and cheapest way to do any and all things wonderful to said space.

But I was born with a decorating defect, because all it did was make me feel like hyperventilating and scavenging for chocolate covered espresso beans.

Oh. And screaming too. It made me do lots of internal screaming as my blood pressure blew past the stratosphere.

I kept flipping pages faster and faster, frantically hoping to find other things. Food things. “Dear God, where is the flipping food?! Where are the recipes?!”

Lawd help me.

I am not a de-coh-rah-toor.

This is so much more my speed (If you ♥ Anthropologie and a good snort-laugh, this is a must-read. Be forewarned though – there’s an eensie bit of swearing that takes place.) because I am a Boho gal at heart. It must be because I’m totes ok with throwing a bunch of nonsense together and calling it good.

We’ve lived in our house for 12+ years. . . .

I’ve re-arranged the furniture . . . once.

Basically, I’ve thrown it together and called it good for one big, fat, swollen decade.

I’ve been thinking about making changes. Things I’d like to do. It’s just that actually doing them. Well, now. That takes thought. And know-how. And work.

Oh. And money. It takes money.

And what’s that other thing it requires? Ooooooh. Yeah. Time.

It takes time. Which I obviously have, because I’m wisely stewarding my spare minutes reading magazines that make me hyperventilate (sarcasm intended).

And then, I started reading this. Because I quickly skim Nesting Place on a fairly regular basis.

Mostly I look at the pictures, and read if something captures my attention.

I’ve noticed she has a book out now though, and I’ve been curious about it, just not $18-ship-it-to-my-door curious. (Reminder: the prospect of interior-design, by me, for my own home, plagues me with nervous sprints to the bathroom.)

BUT, and mine’s a big one, Amazon was running a crazy-good special on the Kindle version, and all of a sudden, it sounded fun (like bungee jumping or sky-diving fun, which, c’mon – can’t really be fun, but it’s a challenge and when you’re done, if you’re not dead, you can be like, HEEEEY!!! I JUST SKY DIVED AND DIDN’T DIE! I’M AWESOME!! . . . AND ALSO, I’M NOT DEAD!!)

So I jumped.

Or dove.

Whatever.

And I now  ♥ her book and her style.

Let me show you why:

“Imperfection is a sign of maturity.” (Hallelujah! I’m a Golden Girl in that case!!)

“Housekeeping done incorrectly still blesses the family.” (quote via The Fly Lady, Marla Cilley in her book, Sink Reflections) Oh, yes! I am a blessing fiend!!

“At times, good enough and done is a smarter choice than perfect. . . ” (Amen, Sister.)

“. . . if a neighbor walked in and saw a trail of mud, I wouldn’t need to be embarrassed. It’s just proof of lives being lived, and houses are for living. My home is a reflection of our life, and life’s messes can be gloriously beautiful.” (Ahhhh. I’m breathing without a bag.)

 

The amazing thing, Friends, is that it’s awakened my dormant and gun-shy decorating bug – with a tickle of excitement instead of a looming cloud of doom.

I’m debating.

I’m debating about showing you my “space”.

Maybe a before and after.

And the budget.

But this is a food blog – (well, sometimes other stuff too, but mostly food) –  and is that cool, or annoying?

Hmmm. Tell me, do. (Then hand me a brown paper bag!!)

Baby steps, Folks. Baby steps.Farro and Herb Roasted Mushroom Salad Bowl 2 550 b

And food.

Back to food, because, like I said *ahem*, this blog is mostly about food.

So, we have a salad bowl today.

A salad to bring us back to our senses and balance out the decorating-panic-induced chocolate covered espresso bean binge.

We have farro, which might be my new whole grain bestie.

Why did it take me so long to try you, Farro? You’re so good, it’s like you could be Egyptian royalty or something. Wait a minute. . . .

We have crisp-edged, oven roasted, thyme and oregano mushrooms snuggied up with red onions (which turn so crispy and delicious they might give bacon a run for their money. #forreals.)

We have feta cheese.

And we have avocado. What I really wanted to call this dish was, “Farro and Herb Roasted Mushroom Salad Bowl Plus Avocado Because Always and Everywhere All Things Are Better with Avocado”.

But I thought that title was too wordy.

Opinions?

I made this with a creamy avocado dressing too, which – don’t get me wrong – kind of made my eyes roll as far back as they could reach with yum!!, but it’s totally not a deal breaker if you don’t have time. I’d say a splash of good olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, plus a crack of pepper and pinch of salt would be just as good to top this bowl off.

And bonus – these components, stored separately, keep really well for multiple lunches later in the week. Like 3 days in a row. Because you won’t get tired of this and you’ll be counting down the minutes till lunch time.

My friend said to me one time, “What do vegetarians even eat?!”

This. They eat stuff like this. And then they high-five each other for mushrooms well roasted.

Who needs meat when you have exciting little salad bowls parked and waiting in your fridge for you at 11:59 AM?

Farro and Herb Roasted Mushroom Salad Bowl

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 salads

Farro and Herb Roasted Mushroom Salad Bowl

This salad is full of pleasing flavors and textures. I've written the recipe to serve 4 - so share it with your family and friends, or save it for lunches throughout the week. With a glass of wine, it'd make for a nice light dinner to come home to after a busy day as well. Keep leftovers as separate components in sealed containers, and refrigerate for up to three days.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dry Farro
  • For the Mushrooms:
  • 1 8oz package sliced button or baby portabello mushrooms
  • 1/3 medium red onion, sliced thin (vertically)
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • Splash of dry white wine (optional)
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1/4 of a fresh, soft Hass avocado
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano
  • pinch of fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt (to taste)
  • Fresh cracked pepper (to taste)
  • 2-4 teaspoons water (as much as you want to thin dressing to desired consistency)
  • Additional ingredients for the Salad
  • about 8 cups Arugula or other salad greens
  • 3/4 avocado, sliced thinly, lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup Feta cheese crumbles

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper or a silpat mat (silpat will give you crispier edges on your mushrooms).

Prepare the Farro according to package directions.

Meanwhile, For the Mushrooms:

In a large bowl, toss the sliced mushrooms and onions with the olive oil. Use enough oil so the mushrooms are evenly coated. Add in fresh herbs, salt, and wine. Toss again. Spread mushrooms and onions out evenly over parchment-lined (or silpat-lined) baking sheet. (Make sure there is room between your veggies - space is what allows them to crisp as they roast, instead of steam to soft oblivion.) Bake mushrooms for 20-30 minutes. If necessary, remove onions first, so they don't burn. Set aside until ready to assemble salad.

For the Dressing:

To a small food processor, (I used a Magic Bullet), add all ingredients except the water. Blend for about 30 seconds. Check for consistency, add desired amount of water. Blend again. Check for taste and adjust accordingly. (If you don't have a small food processor or Magic Bullet, I'm guessing you could use a sumbersion blender here, or just mash the avocado as finely as possible, then whisk the ingredients together with lots of elbow grease!)

To Assemble the Salad:

Place 2 cups of arugula on each of 4 plates.

Divide farro, mushrooms, and avocado evenly among the 4 plates.

Add 2 tablespoons of crumbled Feta cheese to each plate.

Drizzle with avocado dressing and serve.

Source

Sara| Home is Where the Cookies Are

https://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/09/08/farro-and-herb-roasted-mushroom-salad-bowl/

Crock Pot Chicken and Mushroom Ragu

Slow Cooker Chicken and Mushroom Ragu

Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time.

Like, I wish I could sit in the crowded bleachers at my dad’s high school football game and watch him run the one and only touchdown my mom ever witnessed.

I wish I could sit in my grandparents’ Latin class and watch my grandpa ask my grandma out on a date over and over and over again until finally, one day, she turned the tables and asked him to a Sadie Hawkins dance.

I wish I could  walk the 7th grade hallways with my husband, in his Z Cavariccis and spiked hair, and meet the teacher that would eventually inspire him into the field of oncology.

I wish I could flash back to a barn dance in the 1940’s and watch my mom’s parents tear up the floor with their jitterbug.

I wish I could be seven years old again, playing outside in the summer time with my sister and making mud-pies with a hidden center of saw dust.

I wish I could revisit the births of each of my children and hold their tiny, warm, squishy bodies and smell their little baby smells and stroke their tiny little baby fingers.

Sometimes, I wish I could be a teenager again. Sixteen and sleeping in. SLEEPING IN.

Do I need to say it again?

Sometimes, I think I’d like to go back to our newlywed apartment, to the fresh married years where I was an excellent housekeeper and we had a retro 1960’s glass dining table with olive-green velvet chairs, one whole living room wall was devoted to toddler artwork, and we had a spare bedroom. Spare. Room. . . .

Sometimes it’s simpler. Like I wish I could rewind just an hour or two and not say that awful embarrassing thing I said. I wish I could shake my head like and etch-a-sketch and just erase. ERASE!

Sometimes, I’d just like to travel back twelve or 24 months, and invite the myself to dinner at my house then – because I just browsed over the last two years of July foods, and I want to eat them again. Heirloom tomato flatbreads? Pesto Guacamole? Summer squash and corn chowder? Veggie stuffed pasta shells? Sweet potato chips and creamy avocado dip?? Yes, please. To all of them.

And this one? This chicken and mushroom ragu? Well, it wasn’t too long ago that it sat, steaming on the kitchen counter, but I’d go back to it in a flash. Tender chicken pulled into delicate shreds, Italian sausage spicing up each bite, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil sprinkled over the top – making the whole dish fresh and bright. . . .

And the flavors get better as the daysslow cooker chicken and mushroom ragu go by, so YES TO LEFTOVERS!! (T-shirt, anyone?)

Whether you like it piled over rice or pasta or served alone with some crusty bread, it’s all up to whatever your seasonal little heart desires – and the whole crock pot situation means it’s a goodie in the summer OR the winter. So yes – future me will be revisiting this one come November or February, or. . . next week.

Crock Pot Chicken and Mushroom Ragu

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 10-12 servings

Crock Pot Chicken and Mushroom Ragu

This is a great dish for summer (no kitchen heat in the hot evening!) or winter - (hot, comforting supper!), but most of all, it's easy enough for a weeknight and it makes a gigantic batch. With one batch, we feed a family of six with enough left over for another night or lots of lunches - and as it "ages" it becomes even more flavorful. You can freeze your leftovers, or refrigerate them and use them within a few days.

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 large (or 2 small) Yellow onion, peeled, and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 (12 oz. package) AidellsItalian Chicken Sausage, sliced into discs
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (26 ounce) carton Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
  • 12 ounces sliced button mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup minced fire-roasted red pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (equaling roughly 2 lbs)
  • additional salt to taste
  • fresh, chopped basil for garnish
  • fresh grated parmesan for garnish
  • pasta or rice prepared according to package directions.

Directions

Heat a 10" skillet over medium heat.

Add bacon slices, and cook till crisp.

Remove bacon from skillet to paper towel. (When cool, crumble and add to the crock pot.)

Add onions. Allow wedges to brown well, turn, and brown on other side.

Remove onions to crock pot.

Add a single layer of sausage slices to the pan. Allow to deeply brown, then flip. You only need to do this with about half the sausage slices, so you can save some time here!

Add the browned sausage slices, as well as the others to the crock pot.

Turn the stove off and remove the pan from heat. Pour the wine into the pan and scrape up all the browned bits with the wine. Pour wine and scrapings into the crock pot.

Add tomatoes and next 6 ingredients to the crock pot and stir everything together.

Nestle the chicken thighs evenly throughout the crock pot, cover with lid, and cook on low for 4 hours.

Shred chicken in the pot, taste for salt. Serve hot over pasta or rice, and garnish with fresh basil and shredded parmesan cheese.

Source

Sara| Home Is Where The Cookies Are

https://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/08/01/crock-pot-chicken-and-mushroom-ragu/

Homemade Beef & Bean Burritos + Taco Sauce (from scratch)

Homemade Beef and Bean Burritos & DIY Taco Sauce

Every day here in the Sunshine State, it is roughly one billion degrees outside. (Please let’s not talk about our hair in the accompanying 100% humidity.)

And, every day, at roughly 3 pm, the sky grows dark and a deluge opens up and soaks the living bejeezus out of all things outdoors.

And, also? Once the deluge commences, for some mysterious reason, the air conditioner seems to work extremely well. Like I’m digging out my fleece pants and hoodie sweatshirt and cranking it up to 80 degrees so I can stop my teeth from chattering.

This comes from living in a sub-tropical climate for a double-digit number of years. We become like reptiles. We need the sun to stay warm.

So in the summer, around 3pm, the sky grows dark, it starts to rain, and I’m really cold.

Therefore, cozy comfort food cravings begin.

Like burritos.

So even though burritos don’t seem like summer food, for reptiles they are.

Reptiles ♥ burritos. (I’m pretty sure about that, but don’t mark that as your final answer if it ever shows up on a legit test about animals and the foods they love. More research is necessary, I’m sure).

So I know burritos are not rocket science.

I’m not here to pretend they are.

I’m just here saying that when you put them together like this and you share them with friends, they’ll devour them, then they’ll fight over who get’s the last one.

And they’ll be super happy when you bring more for round two a few weeks later.

Burritos = friendship makers.

For reals. Homemade Beef and Bean Burritos & DIY Taco Sauce

Aaaaaand, when you make the sauce and the spice mix initially, you’ll have plenty extra left over to make burritos a few more times in the future  without the extended (reallynotsoextended) prep.

And the “taco” sauce? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it would be pretty spankin’ good as an enchilada sauce too. Or with some huevos rancheros, or in a nice little homemade salsa.

All I’m saying is, you’ll be happy to have leftovers.

Homemade Taco Sauce and Beef and Bean Burrito Filling

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: about 10 -12 large-ish burritos, with leftover sauce and spice mix

Homemade Taco Sauce and Beef and Bean Burrito Filling

This sauce as just as satisfying as store bought versions, but so much healthier. If you are following a Paleo regimen, or just prefer not to use refined sugar, light-colored maple syrup is a fine substitution for the sugar in the recipe. Just throw the ingredients in a pot before you start browning meat and it can simmer away while you finish up your burrito filling.

Ingredients

    For the Taco Sauce:
  • 1 (17.64 oz) carton Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • For the Burrito Spice Mix:
  • you could go here, which was my starting point. We've since altered it to the recipe that follows. I also like to make a larger batch - so that the next few times around all I have to do is pull it out of the cupboard already mixed and ready to go:
  • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 4 tablespoons onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon crushed, dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • For the Burrito filling:
  • 3 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 can (or 1 3/4 cup) blackbeans, drained
  • 4 tablespoons taco/burrito spice mix
  • 1 cup of water
  • tortillas
  • and toppings of choice:
  • shredded cheese
  • guacamole
  • diced tomatoes
  • shredded lettuce

Directions

For the Taco Sauce:

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook on a low simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in the fridge, tightly covered. You can also freeze portions for later use.

For the Burrito Spice Mix:

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk to mix well. Set aside. (Store in an airtight container at room temperature).

For the Burrito filling:

Over medium heat, in a large skillet, borwn the beef. Drain.Reduce heat. Add in spice mix and water. Stir and cook over med-low heat until water is mostly evaporated. Remove from heat, serve hot on tortillas with cheese, sauce, and desired toppings.

Source

Sara| Home Is Where The Cookies Are

https://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/06/24/homemade-beef-bean-burritos-taco-sauce-from-scratch/

* I have marked this recipe as Paleo because both the filling (if you remove the beans) and the sauce (when you sub maple syrup for the sugar) are Paleo compliant. However, Paleo eaters – you’re on your own when it comes to tortillas and cheese!

Stacked Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pistachio Balsamic Vinaigrette

Stacked Heirloom Tomato Salad With Pistachio Balsamic Vinaigrette

Let me tell you what not to do.

Don’t let yourself erase any photographs you ever use on your blog. Ever.

Because then probably, by some yet-to-be discovered law of the internet, the one set of photos you can’t find from April 2012 will attract the attention of a buyer – a real flesh-and-blood breathing person who wants to pay you cold hard cash for the rights to use them in an online promotion this October.

And then you’ll start to daydream about all the things you could pay for with cold hard photograph cash. Then boom! You’ll shed a tear or two because somehow. SOMEHOW those are the only missing photos from the last 800 or so days of your life.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

And I’m sure there is a lesson in here somewhere, I’m just trying to figure out which one it is. Because so far, I’ve thought of about 16.

Just sayin.

The other thing you shouldn’t do? Binge on pizza and chocolate chip cookies this weekend after you’ve been religiously working out for like, a whole 5 days.

6 Week 6 Pack, yo.

Here I come.

The thing Jeezy MicCheezy doesn’t tell you though, is that your six-pack will be buried under that floppy layer of skin left behind from that time you grew a human in your belly. Times four. *sigh*.

My belly tells my story. Of love and wholeness and 4 fantastic little shorties I’d never trade for rock hard abs. That would only be a 4 pack anyway. Which would be totally weird and incomplete.

Something else one must never do – experiment with super short razor lengths when cutting one’s husband’s hair.

You might get a good chuckle out of it.

He will not.

The fourth thing you must not ever do – we’re going with a double negative here: You must never not make this dressing.

Serious.

If you are a balsamic vinegar lover, consider making it, like – this exact moment.

Unlike most vinaigrettes, it’s thick and dipable (Ranch replacement anyone??).

It’s lighter, healthier, and cram packed with lightning bolts of flavor.

Pistachios.

??

Pistachios are the magic ingredient.

They are the thickener that is not mayonnaise and the super subtle smoky salty flavor that is not bacon.

Why not just go with bacon?

Well, that is an excellent question, since bacon is probably the best food ever known to man.

(On an off-note here, we had breakfast this spring with a man who said he never eats bacon. Ever. It’s like death fried as a stick – that as a child his mother always preached the horrors of bacon. He just cannot fathom putting it in his body. . . . This, he told us as we brunched with bacon infused Bloody Marys in our hands – garnished with gigantic, thick slices of crispy bacon. . . .*Ahem*.)

The most truthful answer is fourfold: 1. Let’s go meatless, and 2. Let’s not dirty more dishes frying bacon, 3. Let’s be healthy, 4. Let’s be speedy.

Done, done, done, and done.

Actually, I guess it’s fivefold: 5. Let’s make it so delicious you want to lick your plate clean.

Done.

Stacked Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pistachio Balsamic Vinaigrette

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: about 3/4 cup

about 2 tablespoons (but you'll want more!)

This dressing is lick-your-plate good. Typically, a serving size of dressing is 2 tablespoons. You certainly could abide by that here - it's packed with flavor. However, it's also very light, so if you feel like you want to pile on a little more? Go ahead - without the guilt!

Ingredients

    For the Salad:
  • 2-4 large Heirloom tomatoes (consider 1 whole tomato per person)
  • Parsley and fresh ground black pepper for garnish
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup dry roasted, salted, (shelled) pistachios
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 3 large, fresh basil leaves, washed, dried, and torn
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

For the salad: Wash tomatoes. Slice them into rounds a little thicker than 1/4". Stack them, varying colors, and garnish with parsley. Sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper.

For the dressing: In a small food processor, blender, or Magic Bullet, add the vinegar and pistachios. Blend until pureed and smooth. Add in smashed garlic, and torn basil. Whir again until smooth. Add in olive oil and whir until thickened. Taste, and add in desired salt and pepper.

Serve right away, drizzled over stacked tomatoes, or refrigerate for later.

Source

Sara| Home is Where The Cookies Are

https://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/05/27/stacked-heirloom-tomato-salad-with-pistachio-balsamic-vinaigrette/

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (with crunchy sweet and savory toppings)

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (with delightfully crunchy sweet and savory garnish)

This soup belongs in the “I know it’s late spring/almost summer but I don’t care” category.

It’s off kilter.

That’s what I’m thinking right now. “Off-kilter” is what this soup says to someone who might pop over here to see what’s new.

What’s new this third week of May? Butternut and Apple soup.

(Odd??)

Poor timing, maybe. Since butternut squash and apples are the poster children for fall food galore.

Maybe. Maybe our food choices belie our outer, organized, calm demeanor (Wait. Who’re we talking about?) and ruthlessly expose the tilling of our inner chaotic goings-on.

I feel tilled and off-kilter.

Everything’s all strewn about and upturned and crumbly and haphazard.

And that’s just my livingroom carpet.

. . . and the area rug under the kitchen table.

. . . and the gigantic mountain of unfolded laundry on the couch. (Picture: chest-high.)

The big, the everything, the bird’s-eye view, is that life feels like it’s a real-time illustration of high entropy.

Everything is everywhere and it’s moving really fast.

Trying to tame it into order feels impossible and like it’s against all nature.

There is a war going on here, folks.

I think it’s called, “My House Prefers Chaos, and That’s the Natural Order of Things So Just Get Used To It”.

Ok, so maybe it’s not a war, but a novel (with a really long, annoying title) based on a thermodynamic law and it’ll never make the best-seller list.

Either way, there are moments of quiet and molecular rest (mostly as toys and socks and snacks have found their roosts on random plots of common floor space) here and there, and in those moments. . .  there is reading.

And at the intersection of this book:

and this book:

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess  -     By: Jen Hatmaker<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

was this soup.

Weird, right? And Ina Garten is its mother.

I have never once tasted a recipe developed by Ina Garten that I didn’t love in one way or another.

So obviously butternut squash and apple soup jumped from “I’ll make it this fall when it’s seasonal”, to “I’ll make this right now because right now I’m smitten with these two ladies and what they have to say, and one can never really go wrong employing a Barefoot Contessa based recipe.

And anyhoo – I’m a fan of 1) soup, 2) butternut squash, 3) apples, and 4) making a gigantic batch of dinner that can be shared or frozen for later.

Two little unforseen bonuses that make this particular combo a keeper for any season? Butternut squash and apples are available year round and both are long-lasters. By “long-laster”, I mean they enter your kitchen on day one, fresh from the store or market but, (and, BUT and AND) the great thing about them is that they have long shelf-lives. If you don’t get around to the soup until five days later or next week, it’s ok. Your ingredients are still good to go. Not the case with most other veggies and fruits.

Therefore – this is a busy person soup to boot. Get to it when you get to it, and make enough to freeze for later. Two dinners in one. Sign me up, Ina. And Jen. And Jenny. We’re making soup.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (with delightfully crunchy, sweet and savory garnish)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 10 or more

This soup is deceptively easy to make. If you're intimidated by buying a whole squash and preparing it yourself, or just prefer convenience, many stores carry pre-peeled and diced squash. The version I have here is slightly spicy. You may want to tone it down the first time around if you are serving spice-sensitive folks. Then, add in more heat individually. This recipe is also incredibly flexible - thus the trail from here to Jen Hatmaker (who subbed sweet potatoes for the squash) and Jenny Rosenstrach, to Ina Garten (who consequently was inspired by a recipe in The Silver Palate). You can easily make it into your very own personalized version by adding, omitting, and/or subbing various spices, toppings, and other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 2 -3 tablespoons extra light olive oil
  • 2 (smallish) medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt and 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper)
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder (optional)
  • 1/8 teasopoon cayenne
  • 7 cups (give or take) butternut squash, peeled and in 1" cubes
  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and large-diced
  • 5 1/2 cups (give or take) low sodium chicken broth (I used Swanson)
  • garnish:
  • Scallions, sliced
  • Walnuts, roughly chopped
  • Apple slices,skin on, julienned or diced

Directions

In a dutch oven or large stock pot, heat oil over medium to medium-high heat. Cook the onion until transparent and starting to brown. Add in salt and pepper, the leaves of the thyme sprigs, curry powder (if desired), and cayenne. Stir to combine. Add in squash and apples, stir again. Top with chicken broth. Add enough broth to cover the veggies and apples by about a half inch. Simmer uncovered for about a half hour. Check every now and then to make sure there is enough broth, and add more if needed. Cook till the squash is tender. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender (if you have one) to puree, adding more broth or water to reach desired consistency.

If you don't have an immersion blender, you can puree in batches in a regular blender, making sure to leave the vent open (or the lid slightly adjar), but covered with a towel (so that the soup will not explode because of the high temperature - keep the towel in place to catch hot splatters). Serve hot, topped with garnishes of choice. Allow leftovers to cool completely, then refrigerate or freeze for later.

Source

A blended adaptation by Sara|Home is Where The Cookies are, from Dinner: a Love Story, Ina Garten, and inspiration from Jen Hatmaker's 7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

https://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/05/13/butternut-squash-and-apple-soup-with-crunchy-sweet-and-savory-toppings/

Manchego Chorizo Egg Tart

Manchego Chorizo Egg Tart| Home Is Where The Cookies Are

I need your advice.

What do you do for dates?

I don’t mean Medjool or Deglet Noor, fresh or dried, put them in salad or wrap them with bacon.

I’m talking QT with your main squeeze.

I’ve got a hankering to spice things up. I want to leave The Blacklist and various “Movies On Demand” in our dust and ride off into the sunset to do things new and exciting – or at least new and. . . fun? Weird? Unusual? Silly?

A couple of weeks ago, I got the bee in my bonnet that I wanted to go on a “couples sunset kayak adventure” in the nature preserve.

This, I thought, was a grand romantic idea.

Until I remembered the mosquitos.

And thought about the twelve other people we’d be kayaking with and the more than likely hairy + pungent guide.

And the alligators. Continue reading

Weeknight Meaty Marinara

Weeknight Meaty Marinara - a quick, healthy, and hearty meat sauce. (Paleo and Whole 30 compliant)

No! Don’t do it.

Don’t call it Bolognese.

We can’t, you see, because of these six things:

  • No wine
  • No dairy.
  • No itsy bitsy chopped up celery or carrots.
  • Too much tomato sauce.
  • Only one meat variety.
  • And we’re cooking it comparatively faster.

So there are plenty of reasons why we are forbidden from labeling this hearty meat sauce, “Bolognese”.

Also? I’m aware that finally in northern climates the temperatures are starting to break the 50 degree mark.

Most of you in that sort of spring would probably rather be shaving asparagus, or baking lemon meringue pie, or dusting off your outdoor grill.

I get it, but hang with me here for a minute – we can still break out the margaritas and Jimmy Buffett album this weekend. Continue reading