Appetizers

dinner-party-menu-thanksgiving

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. I like to have all the same good stuff, year after year. It actually takes some of the planning stress out, because I always know what I’m going to make when I host. What IS always stressful, though, is timing everything out. So here is my recommended Thanksgiving menu (of course with all of my favorite things), and an easy outline for when to prepare everything. Also, while I typically recommend buying several items when hosting dinner, I believe in making most stuff for Thanksgiving. The homemade element adds a special touch and the chaos is FUN.

PS the picture above is from the Thanksgiving I thought it would be a good idea to make everyone individual pies. It was a great idea in theory and cuteness, but a terrible idea in manual labor output.

PSS sorry for all the terrible pictures in the links below. Most of them are from when I was in the middle of hosting Thanksgiving, and I was very very busy. And maybe a little tipsy.

Menu:

Appetizer: Trader Joe’s cranberry goat cheese + Ginger snaps

Appetizer: Cranberry Avocado Salsa

Main: Perfect Roasted Turkey + gravy

Side: Herb & Sausage Stuffing

Side: Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Side: Brussel Sprout Salad 

 – I would simplify this salad for Thanksgiving purposes: saute the brussels instead of roasting (oven space), buy balsamic glaze instead of boiling down your own, and buy bacon from the salad bar if you can (otherwise make bacon day ahead)

Side: Green bean casserole – using the Campbell’s soup recipe! It’s hard to beat.

Side: Sweet Potato Rolls – gotta have bread!

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie with Cream Cheese Swirl

Dessert: Store bought Apple or Pecan Pie

How to execute:

Up to a week before:

Make the sweet potato rolls. Put them in a freezer storage bag and keep them in the freezer until Thanksgiving day. Take them out morning of.

1 day before:

Make the mashed potatoes. Yes! These are great for make-ahead. When warming them up on Thanksgiving day you can add a little cream or butter if they need more moisture.

Make the pumpkin pie; store in fridge

Brown the sausage for the herb sausage stuffing. Keep in ziploc bag in fridge.

If using a frozen turkey, start thawing.

Day of:

~6-7 hours before – prepare the Turkey and put it in oven (varies depending on turkey size)

Have a sip of wine.

Anytime- prepare green bean casserole in casserole dish, and cover; wait to bake.

Have a sip of wine.

~2 hours before- cook celery, onions, etc and assemble sausage stuffing; wait to bake.

Have 2 sips of wine.

~1 hour before – prepare brussel sprout salad

Have 4 sips of wine.

~45 min before (delegate here!) – remove turkey from oven and let rest. Prepare gravy. Put green bean casserole and stuffing into the oven and bake. Prepare cranberry avo salsa and set out cheeses. Warm up mashed potatoes.

Have 87 sips of wine.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

 

Sweet Potato Nachos

sweet-potato-nachos

As one of my kids is still screaming his lungs out from a VERY adverse reaction to the chicken pox vaccine (he’s been a sad sack for about 24 hours now and no one has slept) – I was thinking about how amazing vaccines are. I mean, chicken pox sucked. Can you think of a time in your life when you felt more miserable? And the consequences are everlasting. I still have a huge scar right smack dab in the middle of my forehead and I’m sure I have a few others too. The fact that our kids won’t get that – is amazing. The medical world is a fascinating one, and how cool and fulfilling it must be for the people that are a part of it.  As a current stay at home mom, sometimes I struggle with leaving my former career-self behind, and wonder if I should be out curing cancer instead. Really making an impact. Of course given that I majored in aerospace engineering and worked in defense for 12 years I’m not sure how qualified I would be to cure cancer, but it sure sounds awesome. If I re-entered the world as a medical professional I would work hard at curing cancer and developing a genetic modification so that people can eat only donuts, pizza and wine and never change jeans sizes.

So this recipe was alllllllll my sister Ingri. Speaking of meaningful, she’s an FBI agent that fights crimes against children.  Definitely meaningful and a job that most of us couldn’t do! But she was over for football a couple weekends ago and threw these sweet potato nachos down out of nowhere. OH MAN. These are soooo good. And while I’m still a sucker for the mile-high version with tons of crap on them, these are a healthier, more interesting, yet definitely indulgent variation.  Make them for your favorite friends this weekend. And don’t worry about measurements, us as much or as little toppings as you want.

Recipe

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • S&P
  • butter or olive oil
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1-3 heaping spoonfuls light sour cream
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced and seeded
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 diced jalapeno, sauteed
  • Cheddar Jack shredded cheese blend

Slice potatoes into thin rounds. Lay on greased baking sheet in a single layer. Brush lightly with butter or olive oil and season with S&P.  Bake at 400 for about 24 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through, after about 12 min. Bake until slightly crispy.  Take potatoes out of the oven.  Mix the salsa with the sour cream (to taste), then drizzle a little over each of the potato slices (I think we used a little over half – the rest you’ll reserve for serving).  Top with some cheese, black beans and sauteed jalapenos. Return to oven for another 8-10 minutes or so, when cheese is melted. Top with avocado, tomatoes, and a little bit more cheese. Return to oven to melt the cheese, then remove.  Serve immediately, cutting apart if necessary and serving with tortilla chips (optional, but gives an awesome crunch!)

cheesy-spinach-artichoke-crostini

As I’m writing this post, I am watching one of my sons climb across the top of the couch with the corner of my eye. Dangerous for sure. I need to get him off, but honestly it’s the 87th time I’ve done it today, and it’s getting old. He thinks it’s hilarious, I think it’s annoying, and that’s where we’re at. These boys of mine are CRAZY DAREDEVILS. And they’re only 1! Luckily they’re fairly coordinated too, but I understand I can’t rely on that as a safety measure. My older son (by 90 minutes), actually has a bit of a hedgehog safety mechanism built in. When he falls his little fat body kind of tucks and rolls. It’s amazing. And extraordinarily cute.

I love a good recipe hack, particularly when it comes to appetizers. I hate wasting my time making appetizers. They’re almost always putzy and they aren’t supposed to be the star of the show. So when my husband and I thought about making some sort of spinach dip app, we thought about how to make it easier. Store bought creamed spinach is the key, and it adds a nice sweetness that’s not always there with spinach artichoke dip. LOVE this app, it takes no time, and it’s always a party favorite. Happy weekend!

Recipe

  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • Butter or light butter spread
  • 1.5 cups prepared creamed spinach
  • 6 artichokes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly butter each of the sliced baguette pieces. Place in oven and toast until just slightly brown.  Meanwhile, mix your creamed spinach with the chopped artichokes and parmesan cheese. I got my creamed spinach at our grocery store Central Market, but get it anywhere! Boston Market has a good one.  Place a heaping spoonful of spinach onto each crostini, then top with shredded mozzarella (I like to be generous here, but you can certainly go easy on the cheese). Place back in oven until cheese is melted.

pineapple-jalapeno-salsa

Happy Friday! Favorite day of the week. I’m so original! My kids are getting soooo close to turning 1, and every day it seems they have a new skill. Bax is running around, Price is taking a few steps and trying sooooo hard to copy his brother. This might be the cutest thing ever, by the way. Bax will fly past him on his feet and poor Price gets almost panicky and starts launching himself off of stuff. He can take a few steps and I’m sure he’ll be walking any day now, little cutie. He could use a few more steps to add some definition to his knees/thighs (so far I’ve seen no concrete evidence that he actually HAS knees). Other skills? Price loves taking off his diaper and Bax loves poking people in the eye. Like really hard.

On to food. This pineapple salsa goes on anything. Anything. Use it as a dip, but I highly recommend it as a topper for your grilled fish or chicken of choice. We had it on top of blackened salmon and it was perfect. Talk about a perfect summer dinner party recipe!

Recipe

  • 1 1/4 cup pineapple, diced into small 1/4-in. pieces
  • 1 tablespoon pineapple juice (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons canned green chiles or diced jalapeno
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped white or sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pepper to taste

I used fresh pre-cut pineapple from the grocery store, then chopped it up even smaller and used 1 tablespoon of the extra pineapple juice from the container. Place the pineapple and juice in a bowl, then add in remaining ingredients. Mix together, then let marinate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Grilled Caprese Salad

grilled-caprese-salad

I’m feeling very uninspired in the world of fashion lately. Anyone else? Denim in particular. I mean WTF. Wide leg, cropped, high-waisted, frayed…basically all the styles that look good on no one all rolled into one jean. So apparently if you don’t know what type of new denim you should get for the summer/fall, just go to the store and find the pair that looks the absolute worst on you – and get those. I also heard that pinch rolling is coming back, and skinnies are out. It literally took me years to get into the skinny trend because it just didn’t suit my body type…now I’m firmly on board and have a closet full of skinnies and they’re out. Well forget it, Fashion 2017, I’m skipping you entirely this year and maybe I’ll check back in the spring. Of course, who am I kidding? When do I wear regular clothes anyway? I’m definitely pushing the boundaries of appropriate “athleisure” on a daily basis.

Onto food. I love the caprese combination. It’s perfect to me, and I like it in nearly every form: sandwich, pizza, flatbread, cold salad…and now, hot salad. I put it on the grill last weekend and I looooved the melty cheesy touch and the sweet, cooked down tomatoes.

Recipe

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • ~1/2 ball fresh mozzarella
  • olive oil & salt
  • ~2-3 tablespoons fresh basil
  • balsamic glaze (store bought)

Cut the tomato into thick slices, remove the seedy/watery part, place them on a paper towel and blot to remove excess moisture.  Season with salt.  Place the tomatoes on a thick piece of foil sprayed with nonstick spray and brush with just a touch of oil. Grill on medium for about 3-4 minutes (on the foil). Slice the mozzarella into thick pieces, and place a piece on half of the tomatoes. Cover each tomato with another tomato slice and cover grill just for a minute or two to melt. Remove from grill. Top with fresh basil and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

raspberry-almond-ricotta-toast

Is there anything better in life than Friday? And before you say Saturday, consider that when it’s Friday, TOMORROW is Saturday which gives you something to look forward to. It’s the best mental situation. And remember the good ol’ days of TGIF on TBS? Was it TBS? Can’t remember but man I loved Full House. Wanted to be Stephanie Tanner and wanted to date Uncle Jesse (still do). And PS – did you know the Olson twins are NOT identical? They look exactly the same.

And since it’s Friday, I decided to celebrate at lunch. A lunch for one with this absolutely delicious ricotta toast (every time I say ricotta in my head I roll by T’s like Giada), topped with slivered almonds and the quickest easiest raspberry jam.

Recipe (1)

  • 1 piece good sourdough or honey wheat toast
  • 1/4 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons Ricotta  (or cream cheese spread would be just as amazing)
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds

To make the quick jam, place the raspberries and sugar in a sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium high, and crush the raspberries with a rubber spatula. Mix together, and bring to a low boil for just a couple minutes.  Transfer to a fine mesh strainer to remove some of the liquid (or just tilt the pan over the sink and hold back the thick jam). Toast your bread to your heart’s content. Spread ricotta or cream cheese on it (or goat!), sprinkle with almonds, and top with jam. Babies love it too.

 

 

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