Tom’s uncle grows tomatillos in his garden and we have been gifted with a LOT of them over the past couple of months (Thanks, Ralph!). I’m certainly not complaining because as you can probably tell if you’ve been reading for a bit, I’m a big fan of tomatillos.

We do some sort of shredded meat for Mexican fare pretty often in this house. The kids go nuts for it and we love it too, of course. If it’s not beef, then we use chicken or pork and do anything from serving it burrito-bowl style on top of lime rice or quinoa with lots of garnishes, tostadas with baked corn tortillas, or soft tacos. I make the braising sauce the night before (and you can even go ahead and put the chicken with the sauce in the bowl of your crockpot and refrigerate it overnight), so there is nothing to do in the morning but turn on the slow cooker.

You could use jarred salsa, of course, but when making a braising liquid is this easy, why not give it a try? All you need to do is throw some stuff on a broiling pan, broil it, and puree it in the food processor. As my 4 year old would say, “easy peasy lemon squeezy.”

Oh! And in an effort to make this time-sensitive since everyone else is posting Thanksgiving fare (whoops!), you could totally use the sauce on top of leftover turkey, just simmer it for a short amount of time to absorb it or just mix the two together and make the tamale pie below.

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I’m about to tell you something that may make you go from being my internet friend to looking at me with some scrutiny. I dislike Christmas music. Strongly. I think all of it is pretty terrible and its only redeeming factor is listening to cute kids sing it, which ups its tolerable factor by a million (thank goodness, because Z has been practicing Christmas music since September for his school concert). Needless to say I’m not one of those people who gets into the Christmas spirit by listening to holiday music 24/7 from Halloween until Christmas.

But getting into the spirit by making holiday-related things? Bring it. I’m all about gingerbread/snaps in any way, shape, or form – cookies, lattes, cake, pancakes. So, when I was thinking about something to cook/bake with Zachary this past weekend (something I am trying to do on a weekly basis now, and I’m sure Ian will be joining us soon), gingerbread muffins were the first thing that came to my mind.

What I like about these muffins is they are actually gingery. Too often I see recipes for gingerbread something or other with half a teaspoon of ginger and that just makes no sense. These are a Cooking Light recipe, so they’re already pretty healthy, but I decided to make them entirely with white whole wheat flour and reduced the sugar (since they already have molasses) to make these even better. Zachary suggested putting raisins in these muffins, which I was totally down with. Dried cranberries would also be a welcome, festive addition.

 

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Thanksgiving is 2.5 weeks away and I don’t understand how that’s possible.  Weren’t we just talking about the fourth of July and seeing kids’ first day of school pictures on Facebook? Plus, I’m pretty sure everyone has PTSD from last winter’s awful weather. So here we sit with bated breath, unsure whether we should be happy the holidays are approaching or terrified of the winter that might come along with them.

Ready or not, they’re coming. Tis the season where you can bribe your kid to be good because Santa is watching.

We’re  headed to my inlaws’ for Thanksgiving, so I’m off the hook for cooking, but as I made these, I thought they’d make a great Thanksgiving side. I am certainly no stranger to cooking green beans with bacon (thank goodness) but this method makes for a nicer presentation and is also pretty easy to prep.

Although the original recipe calls for frying the bacon until it is “just beginning to brown around the edges but still very underdone” I really see no reason you can’t leave the bacon raw before baking. I had the bacon on the stove for such a short amount of time that I basically just warmed it, so next time I’ll probably just skip that step entirely (the benefit, though, was that we had these with roasted pork tenderloin and I was able to sear the tenderloin in the bacon fat :-D). And while I’m at skipping steps, I honestly don’t think you need to blanch the beans either. Don’t worry – if you ever need someone to condone your step-skipping or laziness, I am here for you because I am you.

 

 

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I’ve been having some issues blogging lately. You’ve probably noticed, given my struggle to post just once a week. There are many factors that have gone into this, including cooking becoming more of a chore or survival mechanism than a thing I enjoy (thanks to getting home later than ever/having very little time to make dinner after work during the week). By the time the food is cooked, the table is set, and the kids have washed their hands and been seated, taking pictures is the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, if I do it at all it’s done really quickly so I can sit down and actually start eating my own dinner before my 1.5 year old inevitably finishes his and starts pawing at me, asking for more, and leaving food-stained hand prints on my clothes.

This is all to say that I kinda sorta hate this picture, but I’m posting this recipe anyway. I wish my picture could do this meal justice, but I cannot get a good pic to save my life (yes, we’ve had this more than once, yes I’ve even made it on less-stressful weekend evenings). I feel it is my duty, however, to bring this meal to your attention because it’s so good.

My kids go nuts over roast chicken and this version is no different. The chicken is spiced with things we all love, like sumac, allspice, cinnamon, and za’atar. It’s marinated in  a brothy-spice mixture, which makes it incredibly tender. You may not be able to get the skin as crispy as usual thanks to the broth, but we didn’t really have much issue (maybe because I use a higher heat). You could probably use the broiler for a minute at the end to crisp it up, too.

And as if that tender, lightly spiced chicken weren’t enough, it’s covered in an herbacious tahini sauce, sprinkled with buttery pine nuts and served along sweet red onions.

Guys, Ian (19 months old) ate more than half a red onion himself. I do not understand my children.

We love this with a Greek salad – village or Americanized with lettuce and dressing – and pita. This takes some time to marinate and cook, but most of the time is hands-off so it makes a great weekend meal when you are busy with other things like making sure your kids do a good job raking or trying to figure out why you have 29 years on a kid but still can’t manage to win a game of Spot It against him.

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A while back, I had a friend tell me that if there was anything I didn’t like, I should just wrap it in prosciutto or stuff it with goat cheese and then I’d be cool with it. And, you know, she wasn’t wrong. Prosciutto is one of my favorite things. I love it for its saltiness. I love that it can be eaten on its own, with vegetables, in a sandwich, with fruit. I love that you can crisp it up and it takes on a whole new greatness. It’s no wonder, then, that I also love chicken saltimbocca. And of course, this recipe for a version that includes spaghetti and is all cooked in one pan jumped right out at me.

We’ve had this dish at least three or four times now, and it never fails to disappoint. Clearly, I thought I would enjoy this, but I was surprised at how delicious it was given its simplicity and relatively short list of ingredients. Tom asked if this was an America’s Test Kitchen recipe after eating it because “they always nail it.” Ian, true to form in this household, has started putting together two-word phrases that are largely about food. So the last time we had this, I got to hear “more pasta?” about a million times.

I add a higher broth to water ratio than the recipe (and have gone even higher than what I’ve listed below) but I do love salt. If you are more sensitive to it, you may want to stick with the original, which is 3 cups broth and 1.5 water. The prosciutto and capers obviously add a saltiness to the dish, too. The lemon juice and zest, though, really brighten this dish up.

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We recently had a family trip to the apple orchard. As expected, eating the apples was far superior to picking them, as far as the kids were concerned. But, we did end up with well over 10 lbs. of apples. The following day, Zachary and I decided to make some apple bread to make a teeny tiny dent in our stash. Z has always loved to bake and cook with me, but with cooking becoming more for survival and less for pleasure lately, we haven’t been in the kitchen much together. It’s been nice the past few weekends to bake with him again. I’m sure Ian will want to get in on the action pretty soon, too.

I always try to keep muffins and quickbreads pretty healthy. I was originally just going to adapt one of the many healthy muffin recipes I’ve made in the past, but then I came across this one on the KAF site and it sounded perfect. To make it even better for us, I used all white whole wheat flour, reduced the sugar, and replaced some of the oil with more applesauce. The result was an incredibly moist bread bursting with apples and fall spices, and made a great part of each of our breakfasts for a few days.

The original recipe doesn’t call for apples or raisins but does call for walnuts. Although this bread would be pretty fab with walnuts, we omitted them so that the kids could take some to their nut-free-school for breakfast. I also decided against adding almond extract for that same reason, but I think replacing some of the vanilla extract with almond would be awesome. Then again, I’m fairly certain I could just drink an entire bottle of almond extract, so I may not be the best judge of that. :)

 

 

 

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A few years ago, I worked near a sausage and burger restaurant that specialized in European ingredients and toppings. You could get your standard burger (or not—there were several options) and top it with things like tzatziki, a chile-feta spread, and other way-better-than-ketchup toppings. One of my favorite things to top a burger with was ajvar (eye-varr), a Serbian spread made from roasted red peppers, eggplant, and garlic.

I thought about ajvar again recently and added “burgers with ajvar” to my long list of “Things I Would Like to Eventually Make and Blog about” and then, like fate, we visited my family in Michigan, and my Serbian aunt whipped out some ajvar with pita for appetizers. Score! Both my kids ate it up (as did I, of course) so that really pushed me over the edge to make it myself.

I made this on a Sunday and we had it for a snack on pita (my oldest also added feta to his, because he is smart) and then we had it the next day for dinner. I made some cevapi-flavoried patties and we had them on mini pitas as burgers. We all really enjoyed it, and I love what a healthy dip/spread it is. I’m always looking for new and different things to use as appetizers, and this is a good one. I will say, though, that I was a little heavy-handed with the garlic (as always) and while the spread was spot-on on Sunday, by Monday evening, the garlic had become much more noticeable. I would say if you are not going to consume this fairly quickly, err on the lower range of garlic. You can always add more (or, you can roast the garlic for a much mellower, less pungent flavor). By day 3, when we took the leftover burgers to work, I just made sure to have a lot of gum handy. :)

I made this smoother than some ajvar dips I’ve seen. Do what you want.

[As an aside, every time I do an "ethnic" recipe on here, I get people coming out of the woodwork to tell me "That dish is not ___(insert ethnicity I claimed it was)____, it's really ____insert ethnicity of commenter)___! How dare you?!"  Let's just agree that a lot of places have similar foods, and there is no reason to get your hackles up about this. Comments like that simply won't be entertained. Well, I will use them for my own entertainment value, but that's it.]

 

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Okay, here it is. The first official pumpkin recipe on the blog this year–and it’s a good one. This doesn’t mean we haven’t eaten pumpkin yet, of course. Zachary and I made some pumpkin-apple muffins on a recent weekend, and then used the leftover pumpkin (as well as some spices and maple syrup) to make a great overnight oatmeal. These cookies, too, are the result of pumpkin leftover from Friday-night-pumpkin-pancake-dinner. PUMPKIN-O-RAMA.

We don’t make a lot of sweets in our house – partly because I’m not hugely into baking and partly because we (or at least I) don’t need that stuff around. That said, I really felt like we needed to use the leftover pumpkin puree for a dessert, instead of another muffin or quickbread. I had a vague recollection of a pumpkin snickerdoodle recipe I’d saved ages ago and voila, here it is!

These are the soft, puffy, cinnamony cookies you’re used to in a snickerdoodle, with the subtle flavor of pumpkin and a boost of warm spices. We all loved them and Z reeeeeeeeeally savors each and every bite.

Speaking of Zachary, if you have a kid who likes to help you in the kitchen, these cookies are really great for that. Zachary had fun helping me measure/mix all the ingredients for the dough (and of course making sure the butter/sugars creamed properly) and then, later, roll the cookies into balls, roll the balls around in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, and finally press down on the cookies with a glass. Plenty of steps that he could do on his own or with a little help. And, of course, later he gets to ask his dad questions like, “Dad, aren’t you going to thank Mom and me for making those delicious pumpkin cookies?”

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I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like tomato soup (more than once, apparently. I guess you’re prone to repetition when blogging for 8 years). It’s because I like more substance to my soups (especially because we do often eat them as a meal) and though I adore tomatoes, I don’t really like very concentrated tomato-based soups. They are a bit too tomato-y for me, if you will.

But this soup, I knew I would like. The tomatoes didn’t seem quite as prevalent, and clearly with both meatballs and pasta, this soup is pretty hearty. Bridget said the meatballs and pasta almost put this in the Spaghettios category and I would probably agree, but I’ve literally had Spaghettios only once in my life, in college, so I’m not really experienced enough to make that comparison (let’s be real, though, we all know this is way better).

Everyone really loved this soup. Ian finished his before I even had like 3 bites of my salad down, and then continued to grope me with tomato-fingers asking for more until I got him some. (One day, dinners will be a little more…relaxing, right?).

I did increase the amount of broth, not only because of my preference for broth to more tomatoes, but because I made this a day before we were going to eat it, and I knew the ditalini would continue to soak up the liquid overnight. I wanted it to stay a soup, and not…well, a pasta dish.

Now, tell me, what are your favorite soups? Because soups are my FAVORITE thing to make, and once the first one is out of the way (okay, okay, we’ve already had two…), there’s no stopping me.

 

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Last week, I was thankful to my kid for helping me with meal planning, and this week I’m thankful to my new dentist.

So, yeah. I have a new dentist and we are in that whole getting-to-know-you period. At my last appointment he asked if I had any hobbies, and because I am a really lame person who doesn’t have many any more, I said cooking. I have to say that while I still enjoy cooking for the most part, I would hardly call it a “hobby” at this point so much as a necessity. At any rate, he then started talking about various dishes he likes, and he mentioned that he makes this Italian pot roast from an old Boy Scouts cookbook. He rattled off the ingredients and it sounded really good, so I decided to search for it online (who am I kidding? Internet surfing is obviously my true hobby) and found it rather quickly. I decided to make this in the slow cooker so we could have it during the week, and we had it alongside some Parmesan farro.

I didn’t add any wine to this, but I think next time I’ll add a little red wine, especially since I upped the broth a bit (just to make sure there was enough liquid, since it was going to be in the slow cooker all day). This is not to say that it wasn’t delicious as-is, but I feel like pot roast needs wine or something. :) We did all really like this and the leftovers were SO good too. The sun-dried tomatoes add a great sweetness and the kalamata olives a salty bite. The pearl onions get cooked down until they are soft, sweet, and fabulous. I actually put a whole bag in vs. 1 cup, mostly because I read the recipe incorrectly, but I’m glad I did it.

The prep is also really easy—which should be mandatory for a slow cooker recipe.

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