Roasted Acorn Squash

Ever feel like having dessert for dinner? Well this is your dish! And it’s a vegetable, so it’s healthy…right!? OK fine, maybe it was healthy before we added the butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup. But this is a safe haven for all my butter lovers!

For those of you that do enjoy eating on the lighter side, I’ll include a healthier version of this recipe at the end of the post.

This is another great recipe for a busy fall or winter night, when your prep time is cut short. It just takes a few minutes to throw together before popping it in the oven.

CAUTION: If you are anything like me (a walking disaster), please be careful when cutting a squash in half! They can be extremely hard to cut through and they are round. We already know what happens when we aren’t careful cutting things that roll.

What You’ll Need:

  • Acorn Squash
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
    • If preparing more than 1 (2 halves) Acorn Squash, it’s simply 1 tablespoon of each in one half: butter, brown sugar, maple syrup.

IMG_2807 2

Preheat your oven to 400°. Begin by cutting your acorn squash in half lengthwise. You can balance the Acorn Squash  on its ridges to prevent it from rolling (good luck!)

IMG_2828 2

Phew – I hope all your fingers are in tact and without stitches! Now you’re going to clean out the seeds and strings with a spoon…

Go ahead place a tablespoon of butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup in each half of squash. Place them in a baking dish, ensuring they aren’t going to tip over. Pop them in the over for 1 hour 15 minutes.

IMG_2861 2

Squash will be hot. Do you see that liquid?  Well that’s a jacuzzi of butter and sugar; Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving. You can either place each half into a bowl and eat it with a spoon directly out of the skin or you can remove all the squash and put it into a serving bowl (better for a dinner party). Don’t discard the jacuzzi of butter and sugar! You eat that with the squash, ya crazy! If you want to be healthy, just make the recipe below.

Honey & Cinnamon Acorn Squash (Healthier)

  • Acorn Squash
  • 2 tablespoons Honey
  • 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Stevia

Each half of squash will receive 1 tablespoon of honey, 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 tablespoon of stevia. Roast for 1 hour 15 minutes in a 400° oven.

No matter which way you choose to make your squash, they are both undeniably sweet and a nice treat to have for dinner (or lunch!) As always, I hope you love it!

Bon Appétit!

Beef Stew

Another day, another stew. I promise you I have some recipes that don’t require beef stock and a spoon coming soon…

But not today. Today I’m going to belly flop into another one of my favorite fall dishes: Beef Stew. Growing up I loved this meal with the exception of one major component: The stew meat. I am just about the furthest thing away from a vegetarian, but I almost considered eating my stew sans the stew meat.

Then, the light bulb turned on. You know what other meal I love? Pot Roast. Pot Roast & Beef Stew have similar qualities, so I decided to marry the two and it is one of my prouder decisions in my 26 years of life.

This particular day, due to time restraints, I started my Pot Roast in the crock pot before coming home and transferring it to my dutch oven. I don’t love crock pots (have you NOT seen “This is us?!”) I’m not only afraid of starting a massive house fire. I’m also, just maybe, a teeeeeeny tiny bit OCD and need to tend to/check on/taste my food every three seconds. If you’re not quite as controlling as I am, you can most certainly cook this entire Pot-Roast-Stew in your crock pot. Just add everything below to your slow cooker (instead of a dutch oven) and cook on low heat for 8 hours.

My favorite thing about stews & soups is that they are so dang “busy-parent” friendly. You can prep all your peeling and chopping of vegetables the night before, you can throw everything in a slow cooker and “set it & forget it,” you can freeze portions & thaw them for a cook-free weeknight dinner.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4-5 pound Pot Roast
  • 1 – 12 oz. can of Beer (I used an Oktoberfest)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of Butter
  • 4 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 – 6 oz. can of Tomato Paste
  • 1 – 32 oz. carton of low-sodium Beef Stock
  • 2 medium Red Onions, quartered or one bag of frozen White Pearl Onions
  • 4-5 medium Red Potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 4 Carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 3 stalks of Celery, chopped
  • 1 bag of frozen Peas
  • 3 fresh Bay Leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon Thyme
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Thickening Agent (corn starch, flour, arrowroot powder) + water
    • You can change the amounts of vegetables for your family’s preference (i.e. if you’re a big potato guy, but hate onions – alter the recipe to fit you!)

 

Pot Roast_1

  • Place your Pot Roast at the bottom of your slow cooker along with the half of the onions, 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire, 1 can of beer, bay leafs, garlic, & thyme. Cover your crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours.

*This is when I transfered mine to a dutch oven for a more controlled cook. if you prefer to finish yours in the slow cooker, just add all remaining ingredients and cook for an additional 4 hours on low heat.

  • Carefully remove your pot roast from the slow cooker and place into your dutch oven. Pour remaining contents on top.
  • Add 32 ounces of beef stock, potatoes, onions, carrots, celery,  and parsley.
  • Dump in your can of tomato paste and stir well. Cover your dutch oven and let simmer on low heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Pot Roast_10

  • After three hours have passed, carefully remove your pot roast from your stew. Using a fork, shred apart (this should be very easy, if not place pot roast back in dutch oven and continue to simmer). After you’ve shredded the entire roast, add it back into the vessel.

Pot Roast_13

  • Add 1 tablespoon of thickening agent (I use arrowroot powder) to 1/2 cup of cold water, whisk until dissolved. While stirring your stew, add mixture slowly. Continue until you reach desired consistency.
  • Lastly, I’ll add in peas. I let these thaw on the countertop for a few hours. This is always my last step because frozen peas can become overcooked and mushy very easily.
  • Cover your dutch oven and let simmer for 1 additional hour.

Pot Roast_11

  • Your Pot-Roast-Stew is ready to enjoy and I just know that you’re going to love it!

Bon Appétit!

Cornbread Casserole

Move over, Cornbread Muffins. Let me let you guys in on a little secret. This is the stuff my chili has been searching its whole life for. Chili and Cornbread Casserole are to be one of the most dynamic duos of this time (you heard it here first.)

Who doesn’t love warm, gooey brownies? Well, Cornbread Casserole is the warm gooey brownie version of your everyday Cornbread Muffin. And the best part? It’s ridiculously easy to make.

This is one of those dishes where every dinner guest is asking for the recipe by the end of the meal. Which actually becomes comical when you realize how simple it is to make. SO head to the store, grab your six ingredients, and whip this baby up in less than five minutes. Then, sit back and bask in your own greatness as everyone raves over your five minute meal.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 Box Jiffy Cornbread Mix
  • 1 Can Cream Corn
  • 1 Can Corn, drained
  • 16 oz. Sour Cream
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) Salted Butter, melted

*I like to top mine with chopped scallions before serving.

  • Preheat your oven to 350°

img_2932.jpg

  • Start by dumping that old box of Jiffy in the bottom of your pan.  She’s about to have a “glow-up.”
    • I use a cast-iron dutch oven. If you’re using a Pyrex or other baking dish, mix ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour into your greased dish.
  • Add in your 3 eggs (scrambled separately), corn, cream corn, and melted butter.
  • Dollop your container of sour cream on top and whisk everything together until combined (don’t over mix).
  • Bake for 45 minutes.

facetune_01-11-2018-19-27-05.jpg

Isn’t she pretty?

img_2946-e1541436140555.jpg

Now go ahead, scoop a heaping of her onto your chili (you can thank me another day.)

Bon Appétit!

Chili

A Halloween tradition for my family! There’s really no comfort food quite like a bowl of hot chili. Nestled up by the fire on a chili autumn night, this is the dinner of choice to warm my bones.

I whipped this meal up in a pinch before work, so I sadly don’t have any step by step photos. However, when I make this again (because I will) I’ll surely update this post.

The only thing that can possibly make this meal any better for me: Cornbread Casserole. This stuff is a game changer. If you are a fan of traditional cornbread, this is that on crack. It’s gooey – so you can go right ahead and spoon it right on top. The cherry on top of a perfect meal, if you ask me…

 

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 Pounds Ground Beef (I prefer 80% fat 20% lean)
  • 2 Cans Pinto Beans, drained
  • 2 Cans Kidney Beans, drained
  • 1 Sweet Vidalia Onion, chopped
  • 1 Red Onion, chopped
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 2-4 Jalapeños, chopped (how many depends on your heat preference)
  • 3 – 28 oz. cans Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 Cups Beef Stock
  • 1 – 6 oz. can Tomato Paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons butter (to sautee onions & peppers)
    • Some people enjoy adding corn to their chili. If you prefer to, just add in 1-2 cans (drained) at the same time you add the beans.

Homemade Chili Seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
    • I add all these seasoning to a “jam” mason jar so I can break it out whenever I need. Play with the amounts of each to your own taste preference (i.e. the more cayenne, the spicier your dish will be)

Toppings & Extras

  • Shredded Cheese (Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Monterey Jack….)
  • Sour Cream or Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Chopped Scallions
  • Chopped Onions
  • Bacon Bits
  • Pickled Jalapeños
  • Cornbread Casserole
  • Tortilla Strips or Chips

Pairs Well With:

  • IPA’s
  • Pumpkin Beer
  • Red Wine
  • Scary Movies

 

Let’s Get Cookin’…

  • Melt your butter at the bottom of a large stock pot. Begin by sautéing your chopped onions and peppers. Sprinkle on some of your chili seasoning and let cook on medium-low heat until soft.
  • Once the onions & peppers are soft, drop in your ground beef. Break apart beef with a wooden spatula and mix, ensuring the beef gets cooked evenly. Sprinkle some more chili seasoning on top and sauté until almost cooked through.
  • Add in the can of tomato paste and Worcestershire. Mix until evenly distributed.
  • Pour in crushed tomatoes and beef stock and stir well.
  • Pour in all of your drained beans and stir again.
  • Cover your stock pot and let simmer over medium-high heat for about 20 minutes, stirring every so often.
  • You can either enjoy this right away or let it simmer on low heat all day. The choice is yours!

IMG_2946

 

*freeze portions of this chili for an easy weeknight dinner. 

 

Bon Appétit!

Roasted Squash & Sage

When making my baby’s pureed foods, I like to add some sort of seasonings to each one. Just a dash or two to get them accustomed to different flavors (I would steer clear of the cayenne, though.) I always taste all of my purees prior to feeding them to her, because why the heck would she want to eat it if I can’t even swallow it?

I also will add a few tablespoons of water so that it reaches my desired consistency. If you’re a breastfeeding mama, go ahead and add some breastmilk instead of water! You can also add some mixed formula if you prefer (I prefer water because it doesn’t affect the actual taste of the food.)  How much liquid you add will depend on how smooth you want the finished product to be, which will also depend on the stage your baby is in. For example: I’m cooking for a 4 month old, so I will typically add about 4 tablespoons of water to her purees, making them completely smooth (no lumps.) It’s easy, just add a little as you go until desired consistency.

I’ll be talking about my favorite food/seasoning/herb combinations in a future blog, so keep your eyes peeled!

*Tip: I will typically base my baby’s meals upon what we’re eating or vise versa. This makes it So. Much. Easier. This was a night I happened to be making Roasted Acorn Squash for my husband and myself, so I simply set aside half of a squash to puree for Emma.

Ingredients

  • Half or Whole Acorn Squash
  • Sage
  • Liquid (I use water)

Steps:

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 400°
  • Using a chef’s knife, carefully cut your acorn squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.
  • Place your squash in a baking dish and roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Once your squash has finished roasting, remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Grab a spoon and start scooping the flesh of the squash away from it’s skin (the squash should practically fall off of its’ skin.) Place contents of squash into blender cup. I use a BEABA Babycook, however you can simply transfer squash in a bowl and use an immersion blender.

  • Add liquid and 3 dashes of sage to squash. I start with about 2 tablespoons of water, see where that gets me, and will add 1 tablespoon at a time after that until desired consistency.

  • Place the lid on the blender cup and begin pulsing the mixture. Stirring it every so often and adding liquid as needed.

  • Voila! Your roasted squash is now silky smooth ready for feeding time.
    • As I’ve previously mentioned, at this point I like to take a taste of the puree to make sure it lives up to my expectations. I’m a firm believer that if I don’t want to eat it, my baby probably won’t either.

  • Go ahead and store your baby food in either glass containers or BPA-free plastic or silicone containers. I’ll typically set aside what I think I’ll use in a week’s time for the refrigerator and place the rest in a silicone freezer tray. The freezer trays are great because you can pop out the exact portion you’ll need to defrost for a feeding, rather than a copious amount.
  • I’ll also label what the food is and the date I prepared it. Mom brain is real and the possibility of forgetting what I cooked yesterday is high (WHAT IS THIS? Is it squash!? Or is it sweet potato!?)

I hope your little pumpkin enjoys every bite of this squash!

Emma’s First Food

Three seconds after my husband and I decided we wanted to have a baby, boom: Pinterest board. I made this particular Pinterest board “private,” and would secretly pin enough baby related material to give someone carpal tunnel. I felt like a crazy lady (okay, fine. I was a crazy lady.) So many things excited me about one day, god willing, becoming a mom. With how much I love to cook for my husband, family and friends; Words cannot explain how anxious I became to one day cook for my sweet baby. And to then, one day, share my passion of cooking with her (or him.)

A few months later, the magic happened. I’ll spare you the fine details. My husband and I were blessed with the news that we were expecting our first baby! A sweet little girl that we would name Emma. We were honestly freakin’ terrified. I don’t think anything, whether you are “trying” or not, can prepare you for that positive pregnancy test. Nonetheless, we were so excited, felt so blessed, and already smitten.

Now, time to get cracking on putting that old Pinterest board to good use. I knew for a long time that I wanted to make my own baby food. Not only because I love to cook, but for the peace of mind in knowing exactly what was going into my baby girls belly. Not to mention, you can save boatloads of money. I definitely put my hours in researching the “how to’s.” Blogs, books, and Pinterest will be your best friends, but always consult with your pediatrician before giving your baby solid foods.

Our Pediatrician believes early introduction to food is extremely important for two main reasons:

  1. Developing allergies. He stated that if you introduce your baby to most foods before the age of 6 months, they are much less likely to develop allergies.
  2. Hope that your baby will possess a diverse palate. This one really got me. I COULD NOT have a picky eater. It just wouldn’t work and I’d have to give her back. (That’s a joke.)

With that being said, at about 15 weeks old, Emma started showing signs of being “ready.” Holding her head up on her own, fixing her eyes on our food, grabbing at our food, sticking anything and everything in her mouth, unsatisfied after her bottle, the list goes on. After asking our Pediatrician, he assured us we could start giving her extremely puréed foods. He reassured us that if she wasn’t ready, she would make it pretty clear.

Shocking: She loved it! As if my offspring wouldn’t. Now she didn’t (and still doesn’t) eat much. Maybe a teaspoon a day at first and about 2-3 teaspoons a day now (18 weeks old.) We started Emma with squash (recipe here.) Sweet potatoes followed the squash and then spinach (this was a big fat ‘no’ for Emma, but we’ll try again later). The second week of our journey into discovered foods I gave Emma avocado and applesauce. You guys. It was like this child discovered gold. It was at this point that I was moving much too slow for Emma and she decided to start helping me feed her by grabbing the spoon (with my help, of course) and putting it in her mouth. “WOW,” I thought…this baby is going to be a professional eater and my job here is complete.

I’ll be posting tons of my favorite baby food mash-ups along the way; As well as some of tips and tricks that keep it simple and fun. I hope you all enjoy that first puree as much as I did and of course, that very first time you get to feed your little sweetpea! Make sure you get every smile, sour face, and projectile spit-out caught on camera (you’ll be happy you did when they’re a pesky teenager.)

My Favorite Baby Food Makin’ Products:

Baby Food Processor: BEABA Babycook

Silicone Freezer Tray: BEABA Multiportions Tray

Glass Food Containers: OXO Tot Glass Containers

BPA-Free Plastic Containers: OXO Tot Baby Blocks

BPA-Free Plastic Storage Bowls: Babymoov Plastic Bowls (Leak Proof)

Silicone Bowl/Placemat: EZPZ Happy Bowl

Silicone Bibs: Bella Tunno Bibs

And because she’s just so dang cute….

Emma’s First Feeding

When we discovered avocados..

Bon Appétit,

Jackie

French Onion Soup

Ah, French Onion Soup. There’s something about the simplicity in this tasty staple that makes it even more satisfying. When Monday through Friday we’re all running around, balancing life and our nine to five’s, we can find comfort in those dinners that just require a few ingredients and roughly 20 minutes of our time. From the buttery-garlicky onion aroma to the top layer of golden-brown-delicious provolone cheese. These “good to the last slurp” components are what keep us coming back for seconds.

When preparing my French Onion Soup, I prefer to use a variety of different onions, rather than just one type. I always suggest using fresh herbs, as it will really give you the depth of flavor you’re looking for in those broth-based meals. I’m a big fan of reducing with wine (wine makes everything better). Although there are no rules to cooking, I typically will use red wines for “brown” broths and white wines for lighter ones (i.e. chicken & fish dishes). However, whatever you have uncorked from the night before will work beautifully. I’ll often reduce with beer, too (same concept – anything you have on hand will work). Experimentation is half the fun! Do yourself a flavor and do not skip the butter. Bulking season is upon us, ladies and gentleman. Slab some butter on the bottom of your dutch oven, put on some stretchy pants and love yourself.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 Stick Butter (I prefer salted butter)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • Thyme
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • Parsley
  • 2 Large Red Onions
  • 2 Large Sweet Vidalia Onions
  • Worcestershire Sauce (who else relies on spellcheck for this? asking for a friend…)
  • 1 Cup of Red Wine (or “last nights” bottle)
  • 4 Cups of Low Sodium Beef Broth
  • 4 Cups Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
  • French Baguette
  • Provolone Cheese (Gruyere & Swiss work nicely, too…)

Pairs well with:

  • Malbec or Cabernet
  • Chardonnay
  • IPA’s

French Onion Soup 1

  • Begin by gathering and preparing all of your ingredients prior to beginning the actual cooking process. By doing this, it will prevent scrambling for something last minute while the garlic and butter are burning on the stove.
  • Divide your butter into sections (just to help the melting process) and slab into your dutch oven or soup pot (not yet turned on). Listen, butter is my religion and margarine is the devil. However, if you absolutely must….please just don’t tell me.
  • Mince your garlic cloves and chop your parsley. Add them to your cooking vessel, along with the 3 bay leaves and thyme. Turn your stove on low and cover pot.

French Onion Soup_Butter.png

  • While your butter is melting, begin to peel and chop your onions. I prefer to quarter my onions and from there, slice them thinly.
    • Helpful hint: Coming from the queen of clumsiness, make sure the onion your cutting is ALWAYS flat side down. (i.e. do not ever try cutting anything round without first cutting it in half. Round things roll. Round things that roll while you are using a chef’s knife result in 9 fingers instead of 10.)

French Onion Soup_2

French Onion Soup_3

  • Toss those babies into your dutch oven. Stir them, ensuring an even coating of butter. At this point, I like to grind some pepper on top before covering. Increase stove temperature to medium-low, pour yourself a drink, and relax for the next 20 or so minutes. Put your glass down every so often to give those buttery onions a stir.french-onion-soup_onions.png
  • After about 20 minutes, or when the onions have cooked down to a clear, caramel color – stir well, ensuring you scrap up all the brown bits from the side of the pot (those brown bits are your flavor enhancers.) Add a few hearty dashes of Worcestershire and 1 cup of your preferred alcohol (I used Malbec, since that’s what I had opened.)
    • No pressure to use any alcohol at all during cooking. If you prefer not to, simply skip this step.
  • Over medium heat, stir and then let the onions cook for about 5 minutes or until the wine starts reducing.

French Onion Soup_5

  • After the wine has reduced, add your 4 cups of beef broth, followed by your 4 cups of vegetable broth. I prefer low-sodium because broth can get very salty, very fast. I would rather add my own salt to taste once the soup is complete.
  • Raise heat to a simmer and let cook for at least 30 minutes.
  • While the soup is simmering, grab your French Baguette (or whatever the heck kind of bread you like. There’s also ZERO shame in using croutons. zip, zero, zilch.) Slice your bread, toss with some olive oil and seasonings in a bowl.
    • I seasoned my homemade “croutons” with garlic powder, salt & pepper, fresh parsley and thyme.
  • Once tossed, lay them out on a baking sheet (non-stick aluminum foil or parchment paper make for easy clean-up) and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350° or until desired golden-brown-crispiness (leave the oven on.)

French Onion Soup_8

  • You can get as fancy as you desire with your cheese options. Go to the cheese connoisseur in your market and they can lead you to some beautiful Gruyere & Provolone. OR you can be like me and go to the deli counter and ask for a half pound of whatever’s on sale. No matter the cheese, it’s going to be delicious.
  • Once the soup has finished simmering, begin ladelling it into ramekins or oven-safe bowls. Send the croutons for a swim and layer the top with a blanket of cheese.

French Onion Soup_9

  • With your oven still heated at 350°, place the ramekins of soup onto the baking sheet you used for the croutons (this will prevent any drippings or melted cheese from falling to the bottom of your oven and setting those dang smoke detectors off.)
  • Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven and let bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted. My husband and I prefer our cheese a little crispy, so I’ll turn the broiler on high for a few minutes. If you choose to broil your soup:
    • Check the soup frequently, those suckers can go from zero to burnt in a matter of seconds.
    • This significantly increases the temperature of both the soup and its’ vessel. Proceed with caution and as Mom always says, “blow on it first, honey.”

french-onion-soup_10-e1540912923869.png

I hope you give it a try and most importantly, I hope you love it!