I know a lot of women complain that their husbands refuse to eat soup or salad as a meal, but I’m lucky that mine does not mind in the least (of course, if he did, uhh too  bad, since I’m doing the cooking). He regularly asks for fattoush and would be fine eating a Greek salad with chicken every week. I like salad a lot, too, but when fall and winter come around, they just don’t come to my mind as much, I guess. I always want hot foods, comfort meals, stews.

Enter this salad that my friend Josie recently posted. It’s a riff on her favorite summer salad, and it’s great. You take your favorite winter vegetables and roast them alongside lean chicken, then toss everything with some salad greens, cheese, and a lemony dressing. You get to have your wintery foods (my entire family thinks roasted vegetables are the bee’s knees) but stay healthy and not eat something that feels so heavy.

You can change this salad any way you’d like, really. Josie used brussels sprouts and cauliflower but we all know about my extreme dislike for cauliflower, so that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I opted for brussels sprouts, acorn squash, and mushrooms. We stuck with chicken and gouda but there’s no reason you couldn’t switch those out for a different protein or cheese, and of course you can use any kind of greens you want. Any way you make it, you should make it.

 

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If you’re a long-time reader, you’re bound to have noticed the near absence of fish on this blog (or, maybe you’re happy about it). I’m just not much of a seafood person. Shrimp and I are cool, but everything else is just kind of…meh? To be clear, it’s not that I have a real dislike for most seafood, it’s that I don’t have a real like for it. When given protein options, I would choose anything else. Doing the math, I have just calculated that I average 1 fish post every 2 years (in which I complain about how I don’t really like fish. But  you know if they got posted, then they’re actually good and we’ve had them more than once).

My husband, though, loves fish (you’d think he was the Greek one). He asks me to make it occasionally and I usually just say, “no.” (I know, I’m great.) This week, though, I finally decided to agree to his request and went on the lookout for something I would like. A quick search came up with this recipe, which looked like a hit.  I’ve mentioned before that prosciutto makes basically anything better. As for lemon, garlic, and butter, those are just requirements.

The fish was indeed a hit. Now, I won’t say it’s my new favorite protein (Zachary, however, told us, “Fish is my third favorite protein. First is chicken, then lamb chops, then meatloaf.”) but I did like it, which is saying a lot. Ian had been battling a stomach bug and this was the first full meal he ate and he did so in full—including asking me for some of my fish. Tom loved it but Tom would love anything with fish since he rarely eats it, so take that for what it’s worth. :)

Have I mentioned that I don’t really like broccoli, which we also  had with this meal, either? God, I was basically the best wife ever this night. To be fair, I do sort of like it now, but really only in one application, which is roasted with olive oil, lemon juice, a little crushed red pepper and sometimes garlic and/or parm. You could toss anything in those ingredients and I’m bound to like it (just kidding, cauliflower will never fall into the “like” category for me).

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My older kid is usually pretty good about being gracious at dinnertime. Sure, we sometimes have those moments where he JUST DOESN’T WANT _____ or he is appalled at the audacity I had to mix his rice with the rest of the meal, but generally speaking he thanks me at the end for “making this yummy dinner.” Also, he has a pretty great lunch program at school, and he likes it a lot, but he often tells me that my food is better. He knows how to win me over.

The night we were supposed to have this meal, the commuter train was really late, which meant pick up and getting home was also really delayed. I had pretty much no time (or inclination, at that point) to cook. So we stopped by the grocery store and picked up a rotisserie chicken and some sides. Zachary told me it was “the best chicken [he'd] ever had” (fresh off the heels of him telling me the TJ’s boxed mac and cheese I made the week prior was “the best dinner ever”)…so maybe he doesn’t know how to win me over after all.

But, I know how to win him over and it’s with anything remotely Mexican. Beans? Yes (he has asked to take beans to school for breakfast, no joke). Sour cream? A food he would gladly just eat out of the container with a spoon. After he had this dinner, my place as “best cooker ever” was restored.

The only real changes I made to this recipe were to add paprika and reduced the amount of broth based on similar recipes (because I am no stranger to Hamburger Helper-ish meals), which worked well. As the title indicates, this is basically a one-pot version of chicken chili + macaroni. It’s hard to go wrong.

This meal is healthy – lean chicken, whole wheat pasta, protein-packed beans. It’s fast. It does not suck to clean up. Your kids will like it (but be warned: it may cause stains on your shirt from toddlers grabbing your arm to ask for more).

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In 2014 I took over 5 weeks of paid time off. At first mention, that might sound pretty lucky and wonderful, until I tell you that almost none of it was planned or desired. Tom and I took 2 days off to go to NYC. Other than that I literally had 6 hours of personal time all year. The rest was spent largely with a sick toddler.

During Christmas break, we visited my family in Michigan and we visited my in-laws a couple hours south of us. I love seeing our families but travel can be brutal, especially when that same toddler sleeps terribly outside of his own crib. I really enjoyed spending so much time with my kids, husband, and our families while being off work. But by the week after Christmas I was…well, sort of peopled out. And I missed drinking a cup of coffee while it was still hot.

My work was still closed, and the kids’ school wasn’t, so I did what most working moms wish for and most others give you grief for and I sent them in. And I took time alllllll to myself. I did…almost nothing. I played on the internet, read at Starbucks, and cooked. And yes, I did things like organize some papers, laundry, and play Tetris with our playroom storage/new toys (I lost). But it was without distraction.

Anyway, one thing I made it a point to do that morning (besides drink hot coffee) was to have something different for breakfast. Breakfast is important to me, so I never skip it, but I’m also never creative with it. I wanted something warm and filling and different. And this fit the bill perfectly. On top of all those things, it’s healthy, too.

Though I made this on a day I had extra time in the morning, there’s no reason you can’t make this on any old day with a little prep. I cooked the wheat berries the night before and then sauteed the apples and mixed everything in the morning. It didn’t take long, but if you want something even faster I honestly don’t know why this couldn’t be made in its entirety and then just heated briefly in the microwave the next morning. When I make baked oatmeal, I add just a splash or two of milk before reheating, and I would do the same here (before adding toppings).

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I know it’s only, what, January 5th? But I feel like these muffins will already be a contender in the whole “best of 2015″ post. It’s pretty tough not to fall in love with savory muffins, let alone with savory bacon muffins reminiscent of biscuits. (And we already know I love breakfast biscuits.)

These muffins came about when we had extra gruyere cheese to use up. My husband, who normally sticks really closely to the grocery list I make, ventured out and got some gruyere because “it was on sale.” Well, great, but even “on sale” gruyere is, like, a second mortgage. And when you’ve already made a meal plan that does not include gruyere, it’s not the best impulse buy. So, I added a couple things that included gruyere to the following week’s menu, but I knew we’d still have extra. I was searching and came across these and, well, I stopped searching.

When I first read through the ingredient list, I thought it was really weird that there was no butter or oil in these. I mean, how is that possible? And then I realized where the fat came from – bacon drippings. So, yeah, that right there should be enough to nudge you to make these. We all really loved these and they went just a liiiittle too quickly. They are best the day you make them, but they are still good as leftovers, just heated for a few seconds (my son was very excited to tell his teachers how he was eating BACON muffins for breakfast, not blueberry or apple, BACON).

Next time gruyere unexpectedly shows up in my fridge, I won’t be nearly as disconcerted.

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2014 marked the 8th anniversary of this blog. Eight years! I can hardly believe it. I know that I haven’t been posting nearly as much as I did back in my heyday, and I know it’s been more difficult to follow blogs (or is that just me?) since the sunsetting of Google Reader, but you’re still here. Maybe you’ve been reading for all eight years or maybe you just started reading last week. Whichever it is, I want to thank you so much for reading. Thanks for trying my recipes and providing feedback. Thanks for emailing recipe suggestions, comments, or just to say hello. Thanks for giving me a reason to keep on keepin’ on. You are awesome, every one of you. I hope that I’ve been able to make your 2014 more delicious, and I wish you an amazing and wonderful 2015.

This year has definitely meant a lot of change for us. We moved from the city to the suburbs, and though there are many advantages (great schools, a yard, and SPACE just to name a few), I think I’ll always be a city girl at heart. Also, I’m pretty sure our neighbors think we’re crazy because we still do stuff like walk to Trader Joe’s and the dentist—things you’re just not supposed to do in the ‘burbs.

I’ve remained at my job and Tom has started a new one, at a start-up company. Other than that, we’ve just been working really hard at spending money. It’s not really work to do that, though, when you have a new house (98% of which is still undecorated or underfurnished, by the way).

I can’t believe how much our kids are growing. Zachary is reading entire books on his own, has gotten into sports, is really independent, a huge fan of music, and continues to love food. I dare you to find a not-yet-5-year-old who knows lyrics to Spoon and St. Vincent songs and makes special requests for okra at the grocery store or purposefully bites his pita bread into the shape of South America.

Ian will be 2 in a few months, which is crazy. He’s talking a bunch and is simultaneously the most snuggly and devious little child. He loves to give you big hugs and kisses, and he also loves to laugh and laugh when you tell him not to do something. His personality is thus far vastly different from his brother’s, but they get along swimmingly (except of course when they want to play with the same thing). He eats just about everything except for eggs and yogurt. If you give him yogurt, there’s a good chance he will completely melt down before your very eyes. In fact, the first time we gave him ice cream he lost his mind because it was vanilla and, therefore, looked like yogurt.

Though our weeknights have gotten much more difficult thanks to commuting and the kids’ school being in a different city, we’ve (um, I’ve) done a pretty great job continuing to cook on a daily basis. Sometimes it requires a lot more prep in advance or simpler meals and often it doesn’t leave much time to blog meals, but I’m glad we’ve continued to make home cooking a priority.

We’ve still managed to eat pretty well, too. Like I’ve done in years past, I wanted to post my favorite recipes of 2014. And I’m also sharing your favorite recipes (based on hits), too!

And, if you ARE a new reader (hi!) be sure to check out the best ofs from prior years, too.

Your Top 14 of ’14

 

My Top 14 of ’14

Caramel Shortbread Bars
Sophisticated Twix Bars? Little bites of Heaven? Whatever you want to call these, they are good. Really, really good.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Bacon
Our first soup of the year was this big bowl of comfort. A creamy, hearty soup that will turn anyone who thinks soup can’t be a meal into a convert.

S’mores Rice Krispie Treats
Take the addiction of Rice Krispie Treats to a whole new level. Fair warning: These are the confectionery equivalent of crack.

Traditional Chicken and Rice
One of those meals where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This meal really surprised me with how utterly delicious it was. Pure comfort food that you never want to stop eating. And we’ll make it often enough this winter that might not even need to happen. We’ve made a couple other Lidia recipes since this one and they have all been ridiculously good.

Potato Kielbasa Skillet
Another meal that surprised me. I knew we’d like this meal because we like sausage, potatoes, and bacon. But this meal went above and beyond expectations, especially for something that is so incredibly easy and quick to make.

Vanilla Bean Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Zachary chose this as his birthday cake, and I could not be happier with his choice. A moist cake with tons of vanilla flavor, topped with a smooth, vanilla-y buttercream. I kind of hope he picks it again this year.

Chicken Shawarma Bowls
Considering I titled this post “My Favorite Things in One Bowl” it’s no surprise this made it onto the list. I am practically obsessed with Middle Eastern food, and these bowls let you have it all. We actually just had these yesterday and raved about them all over again.

Roasted Potato & Okra Salad
This salad turned me onto roasting okra, which I’d never done before. I don’t know why since my gut instict is to roast EVERY vegetable. The combination of the okra and potatoes with the light dressing made this salad a summer favorite.

Pizza with Prosciutto, Pesto, Goat Cheese & Roasted Tomatoes
I mean, it’s a pizza that is topped with everything I love. No explanation necessary.

Slow Cooker Italian Pot Roast
I got this recipe from my dentist, who I just visited again yesterday. I mentioned that I made this, thanks to his rec, and he said he’d also just made it again the week prior. I know why. It’s a great twist on a standard pot roast and made for amazing leftovers, too.

Tomato Soup with Pasta and  Chicken Pesto Meatballs
I feel like a broken record here, but, again, this is one of those meals that tasted way better than I thought it would. I’ve never been a huge tomato soup fan, but this recipe was perfect. The tomato soup part is actually so good I might eat it on its own (a big step for someone who likes there to be texture and…stuff in her soup) and the meatballs and ditalini turn this into a grown up version of Spaghettios. Needless to say, my kids also adored it.

Za’atar Roast Chicken with Green Tahini Sauce
The meal we had several times (and will have tonight) that I could never photograph appropriately, but still had to blog because it’s that good. Please see prior comment about being obsessed with Middle Eastern food.

Toffee/Almond Roca
More confectionery crack. Toffee has long been one of my favorite things to eat, and I’m glad I finally made my own. It’s probably not good that I realized how easy it was to make, though…

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Considering this is the third soup on the list, clearly we like soup around here. This is like an elevated chicken noodle soup, full of bright flavors and healthy ingredients.

 

And there you have it!

Care to share your favorites from the blog this year?

Are there any recipes/dishes you’d like me to post in 2015?

 

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I meant to post this before the holidays because it’s a really great and easy treat to make and gift to family and friends but, well, stuff (travelingchristmassickkidsbrokenlensesshoppingwork) got in the way. But fear not! Although these were lovely little bites to make for the holidays, they would be equally lovely at your new year’s eve party, perhaps sprinkled with a little silver or gold decorating sugar. Or for your coworkers. Or for yourself, every time you pass the kitchen.

This isn’t much of a “recipe” but it’s an idea for treats that’s pretty easy and seems to be very well-liked by everyone. I mean, how can you not like chocolate dipped in chocolate? You just make a pan of brownies, chill them for a couple hours in the fridge before slicing them, and then dip in melted chocolate. After you’re done you can sprinkle them with decorating sugar or even decorate them with icing. I think these would be adorable with icing used to make bows (like little gift boxes) but I didn’t have the time or the energy.

I was originally going to make these with my favorite brownie recipe, but I ended up just using the Hershey recipe (which is good in its own right) instead. One factor was cost (not having to buy more chocolate and just using cocoa powder, which I already had) and the other was richness. The MS brownies are much fudgier and richer than the Hershey’s (a big reason they are my favorite!) but I figured since they would be dipped in chocolate, I didn’t want them too be TOO rich (a term that honestly has not entered my vocabulary but apparently some people do feel this way and since these were for giving away… :))

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Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2014 · 9 comments

in misc.

We wish you the merriest of Christmases and the greatest of new years.

Happy holidays and happy 2015!

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The other day Zachary asked me if my favorite food was soup and I couldn’t exactly say no. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite food (though lahanodolmades and lamb are waaaaaay up there) but I’d have to say that soups/stews are definitely my favorite type of food. That’s probably why I have so many of them posted, I guess.

Soups are easy to make and even the more time consuming ones call for little work on your part. They can be made pretty healthily, are filling, make large amounts, and are great leftover. This one in particular takes hardly any time at all if you already have cooked chicken (and not much more if you don’t).

When I first saw the title of this recipe, I thought it was going to be avgolemon soup with orzo instead of rice, but I was happy to learn it was something different. Don’t get me wrong, I love (read: am obsessed with) avgolemono, but I was looking for something  a little different. This is basically a standard chicken noodle soup with lemon and chard. The lemon brightens the soup and makes it feel nice and light, even though the chicken, whole wheat pasta, and chard allow this to be quite filling.

When stored overnight, pasta (and rice) soups will absorb a lot of the broth, making the soup much thicker. I reduced the amount of broth by quite a bit the night I made this, and then just added some the following night when I was reheating it. Another option is to cook the pasta separately and add it to your bowl before ladeling the soup over it. In that case, I would reduce the broth down to about 6 cups and reduce the lemon juice accordingly.

 

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Toffee

December 12, 2014 · 3 comments

in desserts/sweets

Oh, toffee. What can I say about toffee, other than it is basically my crack? The amount of toffee I can eat, despite it being so rich, is both baffling and embarrassing.

Even with a toffee addiction, I’ve never made it myself. It’s partly because I don’t want to eat it all (I will eat it all) and I’ve always been a little scared of candy-making. I think I also equated toffee to caramel and that really scared me off because I have had multiple—multiple—failures with caramel-making. This toffee was surprisingly easy to make, though. And since part of it went to Tom’s work and my work and another part of it will be going to our neighbors, there’s not a whole lot left for me to gorge on.

A really  nice thing about putting toffee in holiday treat bags is that it has a pretty decent shelf life, so you don’t have to worry about making it all the night before you plan on assembling packages or anything like that. Plus, if you have a candy thermometer, it’s incredibly easy to make. Once the sugar dissolves you literally don’t have to do anything until it reaches 300 degrees. I wrote some emails and went through Instagram, and then just stood at the stove watching it the last minute or so. Trust me, if I can make it, you can make it.

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