I *think* Ian is getting better with this whole dairy thing. It’s always hard to tell – did he have a fussy night because he is going through a terrible Wonder Week? Because he’s sick? Or because that bowl of French onion soup really did him in? Although I can’t be sure, I’m pretty confident things are getting to the point where I can at least enjoy some cheese. And thank goodness,because, man, have I missed cheese.

This is one of those recipes I used to ease into cheese, if you will. There’s only 3 oz. of cream cheese (and some Parmesan) over about 6 servings. The nice thing about this recipe using cream cheese is that it’s in place of the cream of ___ soups that are so prevalent in tetrazzini recipes. So, you still get that creamy sauce without any random ingredients. Plus, this is a lightened up version of the classic, but still tastes great.

Although there are a few different components of this recipe, it still comes together pretty quickly and is easy to prep. The bake time is not high, so you can have a meal on the table in about an hour (it doesn’t really take that long to prep/bake but there is some inactive time with the chicken marinating). I was skeptical about a mere 5 oz. of pasta and 12 oz. of chicken being enough for 6 servings, but this is quite filling, so that’s pretty accurate. We had it for two meals, but one of us is a toddler with smaller portions (although, not by much these days).

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I’m so excited to be giving away some of my favorite things in the coming weeks, Oprah-style. At first, I wanted to give away the obvious – calypso music and sweater capes.

Nah. ;-) Really, a Wusthof knife immediately came to mind. A Classic cook’s knife is without a doubt my most used tool in the kitchen (so much, in fact, that I treated myself to another one, so I wouldn’t have to wash it between cutting raw meats and vegetables when prepping a meal). It is the knife I grab 99.9% of the time.

Today, Wusthof is giving you the chance to win one of their new Cook’s knife – a 6″ extra-wide. This knife is great. It has the heft of an 8″ blade without being unwieldy. This knife is a great combination of the agility  and ease of control you get from a smaller blade combined with the strength of a larger one. Personally, I’ve always preferred a 6″ blade, anyway, but having the extra width is a definite bonus.

 

Use the form below to enter for your chance to win. This giveaway will end Thursday, December 19th at 11:59pm EST. And, be sure to check out Wusthof on Facebook and Twitter, if you aren’t already following.

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Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Wusthof. Any and all opinions are my own.

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I don’t really care when it “officially” starts. In my mind, it’s winter. I know this because as I was going to work this morning, I looked at my phone and it told me the “feels like” temperature was -12. It should have also told me, “Do not leave your house in this crap.” But it didn’t. Maybe I need a fancier phone.

Weather like this calls for extreme comfort food. For me that involves mashed potatoes (always), pastas, sauces, tender meats, and soups. This  meal includes several of those categories, making it a surefire winner, especially this time of year.

This recipe is  not originally intended for a slow cooker, but since slow cookers excel at taking large cuts of meat and making them fall-apart tender without you actually having to be there, it worked perfectly. I served this over mashed potatoes with a side of sauteed spinach, but you could just throw potatoes and vegetables in with the meat to make it more of one-pot meal. The mashed potatoes were mashed with goat cheese, though, and I have a hard time not finding time for those, you know?

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You guys know how much I love southwestern, Mexican and Tex-Mex food, right? So, cooking from The New Southwest by Meagan Micozzi, a fellow blogger who runs the fabulous site Scarletta Bakes, was a no brainer.

The book is packed full of awesome-sounding dishes, and the two we decided to try first were great. I’ve already picked out the third (sweet potato and bacon sopes, for the record).

Both the pork chops and rice were easy to make and packed with flavor. If you know me at all you know of my poblano obsession, so it’s no surprise that I especially loved the rice. Although it takes a bit of time to make, I see no reason why you couldn’t roast the vegetables and make the paste ahead of time, and then just cook the rice with the mixture later on.

The pork chops are intended to be grilled but the night I made this it was 13 degrees so we opted for the much-warmer-and-not frost-covered-indoor broiler. They still turned out great. My local spice store carries both mild and spicy New Mexico chili powder and I went with the spicy version.

You’ll have to excuse the pictures.  Seven years blogging and I still have no idea how to photograph in non-natural light, sooooo…. :)

Zachary deemed this a “favorite meal” and also said, “Thanks, mom, for making such a yummy meal.” So, there you go, a 3 year old’s seal of approval (which, by the way, are both the most important and most difficult to come by).

Want to win your own copy of Meagan’s The New Southwest? Here’s your chance! Enter to win below. Giveaway ends Thursday, December 12th, and 11:59PM.

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Disclaimer: A copy of The New Southwest was provided to me for review, and will also be provided for the winning reader. All ideas expressed in this post are my own (and my son’s :))

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My neighbor (soon to be former neighbor, *sniff sniff*) and fellow blogger challenged bloggers to do a post today – a different sort of Cyber Monday, if you will. These days, I can use all the push I can get, so here I am! And I come bearing farro.

I love farro. LOVE IT. It’s similar in taste and texture to barley (which I also love), but it takes less than half the time to cook.  Unfortunately, I sort of forgot about it for some time. But, after buying my first bag in a while, we went through it almost immediately. And then I bought another bag. And I’m still on a farro kick.

This is a one-pot dish with some of my very favorite things, like sausage, mushrooms, and goat cheese. There’s just a slight kick from the sausage and crushed red pepper, a little bite from the farro, and plenty of creaminess from the goat cheese. I used it as more of a sauce, stirring the cheese in until it was completely incorporated, but you could also just stud the final dish with crumbles of goat cheese. Or do both. I won’t judge you (in fact, I may just copy you).

By the way, did I mention that I just celebrated 7 years of blogging? Seven! And I’m going to do some giveaways to celebrate both blogging and the holidays. Stay tuned, starting later this week!

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I’m getting a little panicky about moving. Will my kids be okay at their new daycare and school? Will my 15-20 minute walk to work from the train station be absolutely terrible in the winter? Will it suck not being able to just take a quick walk down the street to get dinner, spices, a coffee, or the integral part of dinner I forgot to put on the grocery list?

What I’m the most panicky about is getting home even later than we do now, and still somehow managing to get dinner on the table, see my kids, and get them in bed at a reasonable hour. And then when we get up in the morning (probably even earlier) somehow find a way to get them both ready and out the door on time. This is not an easy task, because it’s a scientific fact that 3-4 year olds take at least 17 minutes per article of clothing they need to put on.

I see a lot of burgers in our future. Good thing they are well-loved by our family and endlessly adaptable.

What I loved about these burgers in particular is that there’s a bite of portobello in every bite, since you shape the patty inside the mushroom. No random sauteed mushrooms falling out of the burger and making a mess. No bites at the end that are basically bun with a tiny bit of meat and no other toppings. The rosemary in these was also great. My supremely weirdo kid was sitting there eating fresh rosemary as I was prepping these. Seriously, that’s weird, right? I sometimes wonder if he has a tapeworm or something.

At any rate, mine did take a little longer to cook than the recipe stated, at least on the second side. I ended up flipping them back over to cook an extra couple of minutes, so next time I’ll just increase the cooking time on the first side before flipping (since you are cooking through the portobello on the second side, it takes a little longer for the pork to cook through). I also was just a little short on ground pork, and I made the difference up with ground chicken.

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Last weekend, I mixed up a marinade and went to unwrap my pork tenderloin only to discover that what I thought was a pork tenderloin was actually about a pound of bacon. I managed to thaw the wrong thing. Oops. I’m so glad one of the reasons I left the bacon in the butcher paper with the label was so I could easily tell what it was, and then I never bothered to actually read it….

Thankfully, the marinade was pretty adaptable and we had chicken breasts in the fridge, so I ended up using those. Tom, however, told me we had to have pork for dinner, because he’d been looking forward to it since I told him I would be roasting a pork tenderloin. So, what’s a girl to do but use some of the bacon? I was originally going to just pan-roast the brussels sprouts and bacon together. But, since I’d also planned on sweet potato wedges for dinner, I figured I might as well just roast everything together—partly because I thought it would go well together, but mostly because I’m lazy.

I tossed everything with ancho chili powder, which really lends more smokiness than heat, figuring it would play well with the bacon. I did add a little cayenne for some heat (as you know, I’ve long been a fan of sweet potatoes when combined with chiles or spice rather than sugar and cinnamon). The bacon and brussels sprouts turned nice and crisp while the sweet potatoes were fluffy and tender. I’d declare it a winning combination.

My kid, who is a brussels sprout FANATIC was originally annoyed that I mixed everything together. He said he didn’t think it would taste very yummy. Three servings later, I’m pretty sure I had his seal of approval.

 

 

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Let me tell you a little something about broiled chicken thighs. They’re the best.  They take pretty much no time to cook, are endlessly adaptable, and are delicious as all get-out.

Did I tell you I have a new new meal-planning partner in Zachary? I’ve been asking him what he wants for dinner for the week, and he actually has suggestions. And sure, if it were up to him, we would be eating quesadillas and brussels sprouts 24/7, but he does give other suggestions and most recently replied “chicken thighs!” within 2 minutes when I asked if he had any suggestions. Smart kid.

I’m not really sure why I’ve never made my own teriyaki sauce since it’s super easy. You already know my mornings are rushed, so the fact that I had time to prep these means they take no time, really. The original recipe says not to marinate for longer than 4 hours, but I marinated them for roughly 10, certainly to no ill effects. I also used boneless/skinless chicken thighs, not necessarily because they’re a bit healthier than their bone-in/skin-on counterparts, but because they take less time to broil. Shorter cooking times on already frazzled weeknights are really the only reason to ever forgo crispy chicken skin, after all.

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Things have been slow around here, I know. But things at home? Really, really busy. I’m having a hard time staying above water at the  moment. I’m hesitant to share this, since there are always things that could still go wrong, but we found a house and we’re officially under contract! It’s exciting, but it’s also really scary and it’s making me freak out JUST a bit. There’s the big change of life this will be for all of us (I’m pretty sure our car will get a few more miles on it annually than the 3k we’ve averaged the last 4 years), the selling of our condo that we just spent a lot of time getting ready to list (hey, anyone want to buy an awesome condo?), trying to find new daycares/schools, and the fact that all of this is happening right before the holidays. We close in December and as of now, I don’t even know where we’ll be spending Christmas and whether we’ll have a tree. And I won’t lie, I had a little cry about that this weekend—which was compounded by the emotion that comes with leaving the home where you started your family. Hormones, man.

First world problems to be sure, but problems that have kept me from having much free time, nonetheless. Add to it a family of sick people, a 7 month old who is going through some really awful phase where he is up screaming SO MUCH at night, and a 3.5 year old that flips his lid over something so simple as you asking him to put his shirt on for school, and I feel like I’ve been through the wringer. Plus, I need to make time to do very important things like surfing the internet for the bath mat that is that perfect shade of yellow for our new half  bath, obviously.

If there’s one thing I’ve gleaned from being so busy I can’t even update my blog, it’s that I still really love blogging. Nearly 7 years later (can you believe it!?), I still love sharing things with  you guys, visiting your blogs if you have them (though I’ve been admittedly terrible about commenting lately, I assure you I am still trying to keep on top of them!), and just having a general outlet. It’s definitely the longest-lasting hobby I’ve had, that’s for sure!

So, I’m going to try to update as much as possible (including doing a few giveaways for my aforementioned upcoming blogiversary!) but I hope you won’t mind if there are periods of slowness around here as we pick up and move, and do all the things in between.

If you read that diatribe, allow me to reward you with a quick and tasty dinner idea. I’ve been making a version of chicken Francese for years, but I guess I never really called in Francese and never used an actual recipe.

I don’t think I’ve ever coated chicken in flour and then egg (unless I was coating it with breadcrumbs or panko right after that), but clearly this has been a mistake, since it makes for a nice golden crust. I had hesitations about whether I would find this chicken lemony enough (remember, I’m Greek, so I like copious amounts of lemon ON ALL THE THINGS), but simmering the sauce with lemon slices and adding lemon juice definitely gave this the perfect amount of tartness. And Zachary, who as of late has basically been a mini Top Chef trying to guess the ingredients in dinner, did guess there was lemon in this, so obviously the flavor pulled through enough. :)

 

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Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite things to cook. It’s easily as versatile as chicken breasts, cooks almost as quickly, but feels a little more special. Plus, one tenderloin is a pretty good size for us right now, although with the way Zachary has been eating lately, he might start needing his own entire tenderloin soon…

Just like pork tenderloin itself, the combination of things you can stuff it with are endless. Well, unless you’re not really eating cheese – then it gets slightly more difficult. But don’t worry, if that’s the case, this tenderloin has got you covered. It’s stuffed with bacon and mushrooms, things that are easily just as good as cheese. Once it’s sliced, it’s served with a parsley-oil that’s very similar to gremolata, which brightens it up and adds a little freshness. The result is a company-worthy main dish that’s really easy to make and doesn’t take much time to cook, either. It shouldn’t surprise you, but we all really liked this dish.

This recipe calls for adding oil to the pan before you cook the bacon (because just what bacon needs is more fat) which you really don’t need to do unless you have leaner, center cut bacon. And we really didn’t need it, because I also served this with duck fat potatoes. At least there were some green beans to balance things out.

 

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