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  1. Tuesday, November 13

    {Thanksgiving Prep} Brown Butter Squash

    Last week I met some friends for dinner at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco. We ordered a salad appetizer to share, which was topped with squash cooked in brown butter. The salad was good, but honestly, I could have eaten a pound of that brown butter squash for dinner and been happy.

    Since squash pretty much screams autumn, I decided brown butter squash would make for a great Thanksgiving side dish. It’s easy, it’s wholesome, it’s comforting. And that bit of sage sprinkled in? That seals the Thanksgiving deal. I don’t know about you, but all I have to do is smell a bit of sage and I’m immediately transported to Thanksgivings past.

    brown butter squash with sage by @janemaynard from thisweekfordinner.com

    Owen and I are eating the squash that is pictured for lunch today. He’s gobbling it up.  Pun intended. In fact, I’m going to see how many times I can use the word gobble before Thanksgiving arrives…get ready!

    Brown Butter Squash
     
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Author:
    Recipe type: Side Dish, Squash
    Ingredients
    • 1 acorn squash (or any kind of winter squash you like), peeled, cored and cut into small cubes (about ½″ in size) – my acorn squash yielded about 4 cups of cubed squash
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • ½ teaspoon dried sage
    • salt & pepper
    Instructions
    1. Heat a medium-large-ish skillet over medium heat. Add butter and whisk until butter browns. Here’s what will happen…the butter will melt, then it will start to bubble, then it will really start to bubble and foam, then that bubbling and foaming will stop (although there will still be residual bubbles) and THEN the butter will brown. Take it off the heat at this point – you don’t want it to burn. This whole process takes about 5 minutes.
    2. Whisk in the sage, then add the cubed squash to the pan and toss to coat in the butter. Return the pan to the heat, heat the pan back up to medium, then turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the pan and cook until the squash is soft. This will probably take about 5-10 minutes. Once it’s the consistency you want it, take the lid off, sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste, carefully stir and flip the squash to coat, let cook 1-2 more minutes, then transfer to serving dish. Be sure to pour all that yummy browned, seasoned butter over the squash because, darn, that is some good butter.
    3. Probably about 4-6 servings if used as a side dish. Feel free to use more squash, just up the amount of butter and spice accordingly!

     


  2. Sunday, November 11

    Week 303 Menu

    Look at this pear! It’s a mutant! Seriously, the one on the left itself is a little larger than normal, just to give some perspective. I think my organic CSA farm is using growth hormone in their pears. Scandal! 😉

    It’s the last full week before Thanksgiving. Can you believe it? I have some fun Thanksgiving recipes coming this week as we prepare for the big day. Stay tuned!

    Confession – I didn’t get to half of my menu last week. I don’t even know what happened with that! Here’s to a more successful cooking week!

    MONDAY:
    Cilantro Sour Cream Enchiladas

    TUESDAY:
    Chili
    – Corn muffins

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Take out after swimming lessons

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Hamburgers (we haven’t made these for dinner at home in ages!)

    SATURDAY:
    Corn chowder

    SUNDAY:
    – Leftovers, breakfast for dinner if needed

    Can I just say for a moment that I love it so much when you all “talk” to each other in the comments each week, asking and answering questions and sharing recipes? It’s so great! I love our little meal planning village! Enough blubbering, carry on! Please share your weekly menu!


  3. Friday, November 9

    {Food for Thought Friday} All You Need is Love

    Photo courtesy of the inspiring Tracey Clark from Shutter Sisters

    Today I feel sad. But with that sadness I also feel hopeful.

    I feel sad for those who, still reeling from Sandy, were hit once again this week with more destructive weather. Weather that makes it hard to clean up the mess that is already there. Cold weather that is impossible to fend off without heat and electricity.

    But I feel hopeful for these same people. Hopeful when I hear story after story of those sacrificing to help others, stepping up to comfort, feed and house those who can’t do so for themselves. Like Tad Long, a Dallas food truck owner I heard about through one of my high school friends in New Jersey. He’s heading to the Jersey shore this week. His food truck can serve 200 meals, so he’s serving those meals to people in need, even if it means driving 1,500 miles.

    Despite the destruction, I have hope. People are resilient, especially when they lift one another up, love one another, serve one another.

    In addition to the storms, the election has made me sad. Well, the election itself hasn’t made me sad. In fact, I’m grateful for the election, for the process, for what it represents. Taking my kids with me to vote was incredibly positive and uplifting. What makes me sad is watching the reactions of some people to the election results. I have been stunned at comments by friends and family, both online and in person. Hurtful comments that have brought people I love dearly to tears (I may have shed a tear or two myself, hurting for those hurt by the comments).

    I know this is nothing new. It happens every four years. The losing side gets frustrated, sad, often angry. According to a Montreal-based immigration lawyer, every four years Americans start calling in September, convinced they will be moving to Canada in a month’s time. (In case you’re wondering, only 3 or 4 people in 30 years have made good on that promise.)

    In spite of my sadness, though, I feel hopeful.

    Hopeful…because of people like my amazing friend Amy, a committed Republican who posted on her Facebook wall the night of the election, “Congratulations to President Obama. He fought a hard race and, while I hoped it would go the other way, I salute him as my Commander in Chief and pray he is successful in his hopes for a better America.”

    Hopeful…because of people like my thoughtful and passionate friend Carina. I don’t react very emotionally to the results of elections (even though I react emotionally to people’s reactions), so I have a hard time understanding where many of the negative commenters are coming from. But Carina does, and she has great empathy for those who are feeling sad/frustrated/angry this week, even if she disagrees with them politically. She wrote a letter to her conservative friends and it’s wonderful.

    Hopeful…because of people like Emily Ley, a Romney supporter who wrote a touching letter to her son, teaching him about respect and love, in spite of differences.

    And I believe that is the key: LOVE. I know it might sound cheesy or cliche, but love is transformative. It just is. If you stop and put your love glasses on, you see people differently. And, as a result, you treat them differently. And while love may not make things perfect, it does make things better. I believe John Lennon was right: all you need is love.

    No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, we all have the same goal, to make our world a better place. We may have different means to reach that end, and that’s okay. That’s the beauty of our country. We all have the liberty to believe what we want to believe. For example, I am not libertarian and my friend Dennis is. We don’t agree, but I seriously love it when he comments on my Facebook posts. He’s thoughtful about his beliefs and I completely respect him, even if I interpret things differently.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

    I’m going to stick to love, too. Let’s love each other, in spite of our differences. In fact, let’s love each other because of our differences. It’s hard sometimes, but I have great hope that we can do it. And, when we do, we’ll be that much closer making our world the better place we are all striving for.


  4. Wednesday, November 7

    {Kitchen Tips} Caramelized Onions

    Last night we had honey goat cheese and caramelized onion pizza for dinner. This is one of my FAVORITE recipes, so if you haven’t tried it, hop to it! Anyway, as I was caramelizing the onions yesterday to prep for the pizza, I was thinking of maybe writing a post about my technique. We had a couple of friends over last night and one of them mentioned that whenever she tries to make caramelized onions, she burns them and it makes her so mad. That sealed the deal…I decided a post was in order!

    I have made a few batches of caramelized onions that go the way of burned onions myself. I had tried techniques from reputable sources, but always ended up burning some of the onions. After much trial and error, I finally have the process down and they come out GREAT, not a burned onion to be seen! I am no longer scared of caramelizing onions…yep, I was scared of them before. 😉

    Caramelized Onions
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 2 onions
    • Olive Oil
    • Sugar
    Instructions
    1. Cut off the ends of your onion and remove outer layer. Cut onion in half (so the cut ends are facing out on the sides when you do the cut) and lay the large cut sides down on your cutting surface. Slice onions very thinly, starting from one of the small cut outer edges and going straight across the onion.
    2. Heat about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick, wide pan (that has a lid) over medium heat. Add onions. Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir and cook onions until soft. Reduce heat to medium-low. If the pan surface seems a bit dry, add a little bit of olive oil and toss to coat. Put lid on the pan and let onions cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Total cook time will be about 20-30 minutes. Go head, do other stuff, just remember to lift the lid and stir periodically. Cook until onions are a nice dark brown color and have reduced in volume significantly.
    3. Here is why I do what I do. I like to add a bit of sugar to help with the caramelization. I use a non-stick pan, which has worked better for me than stainless steel. The lid being on the pan during the long cooking portion of the program is key. By keeping the lid on, enough water stays in the pan to keep the onions from drying out and burning. Please note that I don't think this is the traditional way to cook caramelized onions, but I'm a busy mom who can't mess with high-maintenance onions...I need a foolproof way to cook them without burning them and this works for me!
    4. Voilà! Caramelized onions!

     


  5. Monday, November 5

    {Hunt’s Signature Recipes} Bruschetta Chicken Skillet

    When I started cooking and discovering recipes, I remember several people telling me that recipes you find on the back of packages of ingredients are always good. After all, a company is going to want you to use their product in a successful way so you buy it again! I’ve found the old adage to be true and have discovered some great recipes this way. And now, with the Internet, recipes from brands are always right at our fingertips, even if you’ve thrown the can or box away!

    Hunt’s has oodles of recipes to choose from on their website and their Signature Recipes page is especially mouthwatering. In anticipation of working with Hunt’s, I have browsed the Signature Recipes many times and have several I can’t wait to try!

    There are, of course, lots of great pasta recipes. I’m especially intrigued by the Italian Vegetable Pasta Salad, since most pasta salads don’t have a tomato base. I think it sounds delicious! The are also plenty of non-Italian and pasta recipes to choose from, including the Arroz con Pollo y Frijoles Negros, which is made with rice and beans. The Crispy Breaded Tilapia looks awesome and the sauce has balsamic vinegar, which sounds divine. And the Sopa de Fideo con Pollo looks simple and utilizes angel hair fideo, an ingredient I’ve never used before. Lots of fun things to try!

    My first venture with the Signature Recipes was the Bruschetta Chicken Skillet. Every time I looked at the list of recipes, that one stood out. We gave it a try last week for dinner and it was great! I especially loved the touch of crunchy breadcrumbs sprinkled over the chicken right before serving. I definitely recommend the recipe. Here are few notes on my experience:

    • The bruschetta mixture that you put on the chicken is awesome. In fact, my 4-year-old Anna kept stealing spoonfuls of the stuff! I think it would delicious as a straight up bruschetta and am tucking away the recipe for that purpose!
    • Don’t skip the chicken-pounding step – this is key to keeping the chicken tender!
    • I switched up the order of Step 3 as follows: brown the chicken over medium heat in olive oil or butter. Once chicken is browned, add the tomato sauce and garlic, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and then press the bruschetta topping onto each chicken piece. Cover the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes over low heat. Proceed with the recipe as written.
    • The croutons are kind of hard to break up into small pieces. I broke mine up in a bowl with my pastry blender, but next time I will put the croutons in a plastic zip bag and bang them with a rolling pin. Less messy and more effective!

     

    Tell us which Signature Recipes look intriguing to you or share your favorite “back-of-the-box” recipe that has become a staple in your kitchen!


  6. Sunday, November 4

    Week 302 Menu

    I hope everyone had a fun Halloween! Our little family had a really lovely day and I was especially excited with how our costumes came out. Click here to see the Peanuts gang in action! (I promise I didn’t once pull the football out from under my baby. But I did give out some pretty stellar 5-cent psychiatric advice.)

    Not much in the house for breakfast this morning, so Dad made everyone hot chocolate. Which pretty much means the girls had marshmallows for breakfast.

    I can’t believe it’s time to come up with another menu! What to eat, what to eat…

    MONDAY:
    – Orange chicken w/potstickers (from Costco’s freezer section)
    – Cauliflower

    TUESDAY:
    – Homemade pizzas (traditional cheese for the kids, honey goat cheese with caramelized onions for us)

    WEDNESDAY:
    Lulu’s

    THURSDAY:
    – Eat out with the soccer team – last practice of the season!

    FRIDAY:
    Cilantro Sour Cream Enchiladas

    SATURDAY:
    – Leftovers

    SUNDAY:
    Chili

     Your turn! Please share your menus, big and small! 


  7. Friday, November 2

    {Food for Thought Friday} Feeding People After Sandy

    I think we are all stunned at the damage that Sandy has caused to the East coast. Thankfully, all of my family was safe throughout the storm, for which I am very grateful. I’m from New Jersey, having grown up just 45 miles west of New York City. It is strange to turn on the news and hear the names of familiar places being spoken of in connection with such great destruction. Stranger still, I’m sure, for those on the ground. Mostly, though, I can’t stop thinking about all the people who have lost so much. My heart goes out to each and every one, wishing them strength in what is sure to be a long and difficult recovery.

    This week I heard two great stories about people feeding people during Sandy, which seemed appropriate for this week’s Food for Thought.

    First, a quick story about Uncle Paul’s Pizza, a four-month old restaurant that stayed open through the hurricane. Five of the workers were stranded there anyway, so they just kept cooking!

    Second, Citymeals-on-Wheels. I heard a story about this organization on NPR yesterday afternoon that was awesome (unfortunately I can’t find the story on the NPR website). Citymeals has responded to Sandy by continuing to deliver meals to elderly people who are stranded in buildings without power. The NPR reporter joined the volunteers for a few deliveries, including one that involved a climb of 25 stories. Click here to read more about the organization and how you can get involved.

    And, finally, a link to The Red Cross.

    Prayers and love to all affected by Sandy!


  8. Thursday, November 1

    Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

    Since it’s the day after Halloween, I thought I would share a devilishly delectable dessert with you. Because we’re all needing more sugar in our lives, right?

    I’m a sucker for bread pudding. Seriously can’t get enough of the stuff. Especially when there is chocolate involved. My friend Adrianne shared a chocolate bread pudding recipe with me years ago that is mighty fine. (If you click through, PLEASE ignore the awful picture!) What I especially love about this particular recipe is you do not need to cook the pudding in a water bath. Granted, I’m sure a water bath makes for more even cooking, but honestly, this recipe always comes out and saves a pretty annoying step in the process.

    I decided to try adapting the recipe using croissants. The first time it was too chocolatey. The second time it was not chocolatey enough. I think now it’s finally just right. Buttery, chocolatey goodness galore.

    Cate loved this dessert maybe more than I did. Every day that it was in the fridge the first thing she would say at school pick-up was, “Bread pudding?” {I’m not exaggerating. I think she was thinking about it all day every day!}

    Oh, and I decided that the bread pudding needed a little cream anglaise. And boy was I right. The crème anglaise put the darn thing over the edge. I used this recipe from Epicurious. Anna actually skipped the pudding and just had crème anglaise straight up. So funny.

    Without further ado…

    Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • - 6 regular-sized croissants, cut into cubes
    • - 2 cups whole or 2% milk
    • - 3 eggs
    • - 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
    • - ½ teaspoon salt
    • - 1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
    • - ½ cup sugar
    • - 6 tablespoons butter
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Melt over medium low heat – chocolate chips, sugar, butter. Stir frequently to avoid scorching. (I usually melt the butter first, then toss in the chocolate and sugar when it’s almost all melted.)
    3. Whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Add cubed croissants. Stir and let egg soak into the bread a bit. Fold in melted chocolate mixture (don’t over mix, it’s nice to have a bit of marbling.)
    Notes
    If you have a leaky springform pan like I do, line the bottom of the pan with some foil to account for any leaking (see photo – note, that is the bread before it has soaked in the egg. it loses a lot of volume once it soaks so don’t worry! that’s just the only photo I took with the foil lining the pan). Pour mixture into buttered 9-inch springform pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until center springs back gently when pressed. I also just sort of check the center with a thin knife to make sure the it is cooked. It should be moist and custard like, but not too eggy. Cool for 15 minutes, remove sides of pan and slice. Or just keep it in the pan and dig out servings with a spoon. Depends on how pretty you want things!
    Serve with crème anglaise, if desired.