Thanksgiving Spinach Gratin

Spinach GratinSide Hustle
We all know that turkey is generally the star of the Thanksgiving show. But, if I am being honest, I tend to look forward to the side dishes more than the turkey. The bird is just a means to an end. Coming up with a favorite side dish would be impossible but I’ll give it a shot.

Potatoes are not only well-loved but a requirement. No Thanksgiving table is complete without fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. Mashed sweet potatoes are a close second.

Gravy. Gotta have the gravy. Gravy has no calories on Thanksgiving. Really. You can look it up.

Then there’s the stuffing. There are two schools of thought with the stuffing—inside the bird or out. My preference depends on the day. The day of, I like it baked in a casserole. The day after Thanksgiving, I like the stuff from the bird in my turkey sandwich.

Regarding the veggies, we rarely have the same vegetable from year to year so I haven’t developed a strong opinion about any dish in particular. Instead, I try to look for an interesting new recipe, but I am not always successful. When that happens, I rely on some tried and true favorites. This recipe from Ina is one that I have shared before but I can’t help myself ‘cause it’s just so stinkin’ good!

For those who are still working on it, I hope you find the perfect menu soon. For those of you who know what they are having and are ready to get started, may your parking spaces be plentiful and the grocery lines short.

To everyone, have a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Spinach Gratin
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties
Yields 8 Servings Read more…

Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill

Chicken Noodle Soup with LeeksMiracle Cure
It’s kinda blowing my mind that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. My kids are still in the process of sorting and swapping their Halloween candy, for cryin’ out loud. And now I gotta think turkey? It’s time to hit the ground running and start planning—but I am in denial.

To add another layer of difficulty to the season, 3/5 of my household is sick. And, I don’t mean some coughing and a few sneezes. I mean full-on hacking cough, fever, multiple days home from school, sinus pressure…you gotta be kidding me sick.

As you can imagine, turkey is the last thing on our minds. We’re all about the soup.
I have been told that whatever this plague is, it is has been going around and a number of people I know are dropping like flies. We are just the latest casualties. And as such, we have been consuming a lot of chicken noodle soup.

What is it about chicken noodle soup that makes it the only food you want to consume when sick? Is it the heat? Is it the salty broth? Whatever the reason, chicken noodle soup is pretty much the only thing keeping us going. It is the miracle cure. Though, I will say I think I have had my fill. Thankfully, we seem to be turning a corner in the sick ward. The fact that I showered this morning is a major victory!

Since it is the holiday season, my one recommendation to you as you start your preparations is to make a big batch of this stuff and put it in the freezer. Making your own stock is key, which is why this is great. Making it ahead is essential so you will have it if you need it. And if you don’t, you have a quick and easy dinner when paired with a gooey grilled cheese.

Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill
Yields 4 servings

We definitely recommend making your own chicken stock, but if you really don’t have time, or are simply too sick, the next best thing is Kitchen Basics Soup Stock. Read more…

Frittata Breakfast Sandwiches

Frittata Breakfast SandwichesFor The Times They Are A-Changin’
For the first time that I can remember, I find myself counting down the days until we fall back. Usually, it’s the other way around and I am trying to make a little bit more out of the Indian Summer daylight. This year? I feel like a 6-year-old waiting for Santa. I can’t wait to fall back ‘cause I just wanna sleep.

I have literally been counting down the days until November 5th. Trick or Treating? Please. I’ll take a pillowcase full of Zs thank you very much…. Am I the only one feeling this way?

What’s truly scary is I have put way more thought into this than I should. For example, I think there should be a Daylight Savings advent calendar of sorts. There would be two versions, and they would both start 30 days before the change dates—one in the spring and one in the fall. The spring version would include new razors, (‘Cause reality people. If my legs are always in jeans I am not, shall we say, as diligent.), antihistamines, margaritas, and small tubes of self-tanner among other helpful items. The fall version would have a variety of fresh-roasted coffee beans, artisan beers, pumpkin spice scented whatever, cozy boot socks, and maybe some new flannel sheets. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

So, with 25 days to go and no calendar to get me through, I’m dragging. The mornings are definitely the hardest. Just getting everyone out the door with everything they need is a challenge without also having to get them fed. Make ahead breakfasts have become essential. True, you can never go wrong with a muffin or box of cereal and some milk. But, that gets boring. And, it’s always good to have a little protein to start your day.

These Frittata Breakfast Sandwiches are great for when your morning routine gets away from you. They are easy to make in advance, have a lot of good protein, and are a nice change from cold cereal. Feel free to play around with the ingredients.

So if your sleep struggle (like mine) is real, try whipping up a batch of these babies. And, know that better times are only a few weeks away….

Frittata Breakfast Sandwiches
Yields 6 sandwiches

Read more…

Sheet Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon

Sheet Pan Chicken with Sourdough and BaconDistracted Dining
I sat down to write about fun Halloween stuff…but I am finding it hard to be witty when the North Bay is on fire. I keep losing my focus. This is rather ridiculous because, other than the poor air quality, I have not been directly affected by the fires. But, my mind just can’t let it go.

Events like this are a reminder to keep things in perspective. Soccer practice has been canceled because of the smoke? Big whoop. I still have my home to hang out in and 1500 other families don’t. It’s heartbreaking and I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu.

I was away at school when the Oakland Hills fire happened almost 26 years ago. (Did I really just put that in print?) I had to watch the destruction unfold on the television in the basement of my dorm, much like I have been doing since these fires flared up. (Well, without the dorm room.)

The Napa and Sonoma County fires have the same “what the heck is going on?” feel. That same blindsided shock—the darn high winds and the utter devastation left behind. It makes the idea of writing about what’s for dinner tonight seem trivial and unimportant.

We all have got to eat, though. So, with that in mind, I’m going for the holy trinity of comfort food: carbs, bacon, and butter. All of these things are thrown together on a sheet pan, topped with seasoned chicken and roasted in the oven. Serve it with a side vegetable (like roasted cauliflower), and you’ve got a complete meal.

So easy. And definitely tasty.

This Sheet Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon recipe is the perfect one-pan family style meal to come together and enjoy while you count your blessings.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon

Shrimp and Grits with BaconThe Low Down
I can be obsessive when I find things I like. It can’t be just a close copy. I’ve got to have the real thing. This is especially true when it comes to cooking.

Anytime I find a new recipe I love that comes from a region or cuisine that I am not familiar with, I can go off the deep end a bit. For example, when I, first discovered Moroccan food, I was obsessed with finding the correct ingredients. Not just ingredients that would work but the most authentic ingredients. The ingredients they use. Same goes with the cookware. If I am going to make a paella or a French cassoulet, you better believe I am going to have the correct pan or clay pot.

It’s the same with cookbooks. I may start my adventure into something new with one cookbook but eventually, I will end up finding the most authentic resource for whatever that cuisine may be. (Think Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking or Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean cookbooks.) What I enjoy the most about finding that “reference” cookbook is that you not only get the most authentic version of whatever dish you are cooking but you also get the history of the food, the people and the region it comes from. That’s when the day dreaming stars. I picture myself in the markets of Marrakesh or biking through Provence with the day’s groceries in my basket. I am a culinary romantic.

One of my favorite cookbooks for day dreaming is a book by John Martin Taylor called Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking. If you have ever been interested in the regional cooking of the US, this would be my pick as the best reference for Lowcountry cooking.

For those who don’t know, the Lowcountry refers to the coastal plain region of South Carolina from Cat Island down to the Georgia border. Full disclosure, I have never lived there nor have I had the chance to visit. But I do love to read. And after reading books by Pat Conroy and John Berendt, I was hooked by romantic visions of crab and shrimp boils on the beach with and entertaining cast of characters.

Lowcountry cooking is the source for She Crab soup as well as Frogmore Stew and Hoppin’ John. There is so much to the cooking of the region that it is hard to pick just one recipe to love. If pressed though I would have to pick the Shrimp and Grits with Bacon. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods.

If you find yourself in need of an escape from the day-to-day and with no time or money to actually go somewhere, take a chance and pick up this (or any other cookbook) and step outside your world for a bit.

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon
Adapted from Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking

These typical shrimp and grits are served for breakfast, but they are good any time of day. We love the addition of bacon! Read more…