Life Lately & Easy Pasta with Meat Sauce

Hello!

We have been busy around here! Warmer than usual temperatures, little snow, and an unsettling political climate have combined to make a very strange month. We have worked hard to keep happy and busy with adventures and visits with with friends and family. Here are a few snapshots of life lately:

We took Griffin to his first Celtics game! He loved it, but the T ride was WAY cooler.

With Daddy by the Bobby Orr statue.

 

We went up to Marblehead and had a great lunch at The Landing with our friends David and Davin. The boys are big fans of their uncles.

In the world of food, I must admit I haven’t been very creative lately. This is a simple weeknight recipe that comes together quickly and easily. I made it last week for my family and everyone, even the picky toddler, gobbled it up! I used ground beef, but ground turkey would easily work just as well. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef or turkey

1 small onion, diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated

1 jar tomato sauce

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp basil

1 tsp rosemary

1 lb. pasta, cooked

Directions:

In a large skillet, saute the onions and carrots in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the salt, pepper, spices and garlic and saute for one minute more. Remove from the pan.

Bring the heat up to high and add the ground beef to the skillet. Break up the meat as it cooks and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the veggies and jar of tomato sauce to the skillet and stir well.

Cover the skillet and allow the sauce to reduce over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.

Serve over your favorite pasta and enjoy!

 

 

Roasted Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Orange Vegetables

Hello!  I apologize for not posting sooner, folks. Life with two busy boys tends to get in the way of well, pretty much everything these days! BUT-they do need to eat! Last Saturday we had a pretty sizable storm here and it was the perfect excuse to hunker down and cook. This roasted chicken recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s version found here. I’ve tweaked it a bit to add herbs and vegetables that we really like and that I had on hand. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

Ingredients:

1 5-6 lb. roasting chicken, cleaned and patted dry

2 lemons, quartered

6 garlic cloves, sliced in half

1 bunch rosemary

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1 butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 sweet onions, quartered

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. salt

1 tsp pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken. Clean well using cold water and dry well with paper towels, inside and out.

In a large roasting pan, place the chopped vegetables, 2 tbsp olive oil, half the salt, half the pepper, and some chopped rosemary. Mix well.

Cut up the lemons and garlic, tie the bunch of rosemary together with kitchen twine. (I forgot to photograph that part-sorry!)

Place the chicken, breast side up, on the roasting rack over the vegetables. Fill the cavity of the chicken with the lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Truss the bird using kitchen twine, as seen in this video.

Using the remaining olive oil, salt, and pepper, coat the chicken evenly. Place the dish in the oven for 1.5-2 hours or until the juices run clear when you cut into the chicken.

While I waited, I gave my son a bath and had a little too much fun with his hair. Snow days make me a little stir-crazy. 🙂

All the chicken to rest a bit before serving. Fill your plate with meat and veggies and enjoy!

Coconut Carrot Soup

Guys, do I have a recipe for you! It is the easiest soup I’ve ever made and SO, SO tasty. Coconut carrot soup is smooth and sweet, with just a hint of coconut flavor. Now that January is here, soup making is in full-swing in our house. I’ve made two large pots in three days! Here is the recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

1 lb. carrots, peeled and diced

1 medium sweet onion, peeled and diced

2 cups chicken stock

1 13.5 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp. Thai style chili sauce (optional)

Cilantro (optional, for serving)

Directions:

Peel and chop the carrots and onion. Add to a medium-sized heavy bottomed pot with the butter. Saute’ the veggies and butter over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. You want them to cook down, but not get too crispy.

Next, add the chicken stock and coconut milk to the veggies. Or have your sous chef do it for you. 😉 Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 45 minutes. The soup will reduce a bit and the veggies will soften fully.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup completely. If you don’t have an immersion blender, a regular blender or food processor would work fine.

Add a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (chili sauce and cilantro can be added here too) and serve warm. This soup tastes great the next day as well. Enjoy!

 

 

December

How did it get to be late so soon?

December was a full and difficult month for us. After a long illness, my mother-in-law, Caye, passed away peacefully at home on the 15th. Steve and his three siblings had been caring for their mom for the past four years through a difficult illness. Their steadfast love and devotion to her was inspiring. It’s strange though; we knew this day would come, yet I felt entirely unprepared when she left us.

She was such a special person. She loved her children and grandchildren deeply and would have done anything for any one of them. She took in foster children and had many “favorite” nieces and nephews. How lucky we were to have been loved by her! You are so missed, Oma.

Oma reading with Griffin

Oma and Parker

Although we suffered a big loss, many good things came out of December. We were surrounded by love. Aunts, Uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends gathered on numerous occasions to celebrate Oma, the holidays, and the impending New Year. Oma’s services were just before Christmas and it felt nice to share stories, to laugh, to cry, and to just be with everyone who loved her so much. We were also gifted with meals, cards, flowers and so many hugs from friends and neighbors. It felt so wonderful to be loved and supported by those around us. A heartfelt thank-you to those who are reading!!

We tried to keep things as normal as possible for the boys in the days leading up to Christmas. As Griffin told me one morning , “Don’t be sad, Mama. Santa is still coming.” And he was right. Here are some things we did to keep life as “normal” as possible:

-haircuts for the boys

-decorating a gingerbread house with cousin Caytie

-a fun day with Elise

We spent Christmas Eve with my family in New Hampshire. Here are a few photos of our day with my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and Bob and Ann, our dear family friends.

 

My niece, Olive, fell asleep on Uncle Bob’s lap. It was precious.

The cousins in matching Christmas jammies

Griffin with his horsies and Lincoln Log barn

Steve and I had planned a quick child-free getaway a while back between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We decided to stick with our plan. We had an amazing couple of days in Kennebunkport and Ogunquit. We ate, walked, played cards, napped, and shopped. The boys didn’t seem to mind at all, as they were with their beloved babysitter Elena. She even treated them to a morning at the aquarium!

Sunset on the bridge in Kennebunkport

Beet and arugula salad at David’s KPT

Playing cards at cocktail hour with Steve

Haddock, crab, spinach, and mashed potatoes with a white wine cream sauce at One Dock Prime in the Kennebunkport Inn. The amazing food was matched only by the outstanding service! Definitely check this place out if you find yourself in Kennebunkport!

Two very happy boys at the aquarium.

Happy New Year and keep an eye out for a great new soup recipe later this week!

Fennel Corn Chowder

Hello! It’s been quite a week for us around here. Our oldest got a nasty virus, Christmas shopping has been in full swing, and we’ve all been recovering from a successful Christmas open house. As I get older, I’m finding the planning, the cooking, cleaning, and hosting to be quite the undertaking! Luckily, I’m surrounded by wonderful family and friends and have an amazing husband who all pitch in. I love celebrating the holidays and kicking it off early in the month with a party always puts me in the best mood.

This is the first year Griffin really seems to be understanding Christmas. He is obsessed with the decorations, lights, and all. the. Christmas. carols. and. books. We went hunting for a tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving with some of Steve’s family and it was an awesome afternoon! We also visited Santa one morning and the boys were surprisingly relaxed.

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Griffin tree hunting

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Tree hunting at Maple Crest Farm in West Newbury, MA

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Visiting Santa with Elise

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Parker and his new musical snow globe  dec16

The boys reading Olive the Other Reindeer, a gift from their second cousins Olivia and Coady (thanks, guys!!)

Dinners (and lunches and breakfasts) this week have been a little haphazard, but I finally got my act together in the last couple of days. I first learned of this recipe when I took a cooking course at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. It is truly one of the most comforting, flavorful soups I’ve ever had. A quick tip-prep all the ingredients before you start cooking. It will make the process so much easier. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

6 slices of bacon, diced

5 ears fresh corn, cut from the cob (frozen works, but fresh is better)

1 large bulb fennel, diced

1 onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 medium potatoes, chopped into 1/4 inch dice

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup flour

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup heavy cream

4 tbsp. olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

pinch of cayenne (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Dice the potatoes and spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Coat the potatoes with 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Place in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes have soften.

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Cut all the kernels off the cobs of corn. Spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchments paper and mix with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.

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While the vegetables roast, prep the other ingredients. Dice the bacon (it is easier to cut bacon if you place it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before cutting.) Remove the core and chop the fennel.

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Chop the onion and mince the garlic.

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In a heavy-bottomed pot, saute the bacon on medium heat until it starts to brown.

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Add the diced fennel and onion with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

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Raise the heat to high and add the wine. Scrape all the tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pot.

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Add the flour and mix well.

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Add the chicken stock. The stock will start to thicken.

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Remove the corn and potatoes from the oven and add to the chowder. Add salt and pepper to taste and cayenne, if desired. Add the heavy cream and squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the pot to enhance all flavors.

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Serve and enjoy!

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Cauliflower Gratin

The holidays are such a special time. Old traditions are evident and new ones created. This year feels especially sweet as it’s the first year Griffin seems to really ‘get’ Christmas. He has rapidly picked up the lyrics of our favorite carols and talks about Santa constantly. He has even been caught telling his little brother about the tree, the ornaments, and sitting on Santa’s lap. My heart could just about burst.

About five years ago, my sister Heidi introduced a delectable dish to our Christmas Eve meal that has most definitely become a staple. Cauliflower Gratin is not the healthiest side on the planet, but a little goes a LONG way in the flavor department. I typically double the recipe to feed a large group of about 10-14 people. Another tip: It is very helpful to have all the ingredients chopped, sliced, diced, measured, and minced before you start cooking. It makes things go much more smoothly. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

6 tbsp. butter

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 ounces, thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into strips

1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

2 tbsp. flour

1.5 cups heavy cream

pinch cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1.5 cups shredded Swiss cheese

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

 

 

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and saute garlic for 2 minutes. Stir in prosciutto and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the cauliflower and cook until it begins to lose it’s crispness, about 6-8 minutes.

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Stir in the flour and cream and incorporate well. Add the cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. Bring it to a boil and immediately remove from the heat.

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Add the cheese and place in a large dish. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Top with fresh parsley and enjoy!

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Fall Quinoa Salad

Hey Everyone!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I hosted this year and it was a wonderful afternoon. Griffin and Parker were thrilled to be surrounded by their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. I didn’t take any pictures, which I suppose is a great sign that fun was had by all!

I know it’s the Monday after Thanksgiving and we’re surrounded by all things Christmas, but I’m not quite ready to give up the flavors of Fall just yet! This salad is perfect for a lighter meal or side dish. It’s something I make often and gets eaten by toddlers and adults alike! Add whatever fruits and veggies you like, these just work well for us.  Here’s how it came together:

Ingredients:

1 cup butternut squash, diced

fallquinoa72 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 tbsp salt, divided

1 tsp pepper, divided

1 14 oz can chicken broth

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 apple, diced

the zest and juice of one orange

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the diced butternut squash with half of the olive oil, half of the salt, and half of the pepper. Spread evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper bake for 35-40 minutes.

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While the squash is roasting, place the chicken stock and quinoa in a small pot over high heat. Once it has begun to boil, reduce the heat to low and allow the quinoa to absorb the liquid.

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While the quinoa cooks, mix the zest and juice of the orange, the remaining olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well.

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Just before all the liquid has been absorbed, add the dried cranberries to the quinoa so they can plump up a bit in the covered pot.

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Add the diced apple to the orange vinaigrette and coat well.

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Add the quinoa to the bowl and mix well. You’re in the home stretch!

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Once the squash has finished roasting, add it to the quinoa mixture and toss well. This salad can be served warm, room temperature, or chilled. Enjoy!

 

Chicken, Vegetable, and White Bean Soup

It’s Election Day! I, for one, will be thrilled when this election is over. I’m so tired of the nastiness and am hopeful that we can come together as a nation tomorrow. That may be easier said than done, so in the meantime, I’m going to be practicing patience and kindness. I hope you will do the same. No matter your beliefs, please let your voice be heard and VOTE!

Ahhh….soup season. I LOVE soup season. One of my favorite things is a big pot of homemade soup, napping children, and watching the Patriots game on a Sunday afternoon. I get giddy thinking about it as summer comes to an end. This soup  is a pretty basic chicken and vegetable soup I make often. In an attempt to decrease the amount of processed foods we eat, I have substituted white beans for what I typically use-orzo or noodles. Honestly, I didn’t miss them at all! If anything, I found that the white beans add a meatiness that made the dish taste heartier. Win-win! Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients

2 large carrots, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

2 leaks, rinsed well and sliced into half moons

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tbsp. Herbs d’Provence (or any mix of herbs you like-thyme, rosemary, etc.)

1 cup white wine (easily substituted by stock if you don’t want to use wine)

1 can white beans

2 cups beet greens (any leafy green will work)

2 cups diced chicken (I use the meat from one rotisserie chicken)

8 cups chicken stock

Directions:

Add the olive oil, leeks, carrots, and celery to a large stock pot and saute’ on medium heat until they start to cook down, about 8-10 minutes.

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Once the veggies start to cook down, add the Herb’s d’Provence, the salt, and the pepper. Stir well.

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While the veggies cook, drain and rinse the can of white beans and rinse and cut up the greens. I used beet greens because I had them on hand, but kale, spinach, or collard greens would work well also.

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Add the chicken stock to a pot and simmer.

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Once the veggies have just started to brown, add the white wine and scrape the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan.  Then add the chicken stock and chicken to the pot.

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Add the beans and beet greens and stir well.

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Bring the soup to a boil and then cover and simmer until serving.

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Enjoy!

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Fun Friday Finds

I haven’t created a Fun Friday Finds post in ages, so I have some fun things to share with you today. Here are the things I’m loving lately and I’d love for you to share what you’re digging in the comments!

Nivea Color and Care Lip Care in Sheer Berry

This lip balm is wonderful. I’ve always been loyal to Fresh Sugar lip balm, and while I still love it, this one is much more moisturizing for these colder Fall days. I’ve been a big fan of Nivea products since my mom used to lather my face with it after bath time as a child, and this one does not disappoint!

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OXO Grape Cutter

My friend introduced this to me over the summer as I suffered through cutting grapes for my boys day after day. It might sound silly, but it has completely streamlined an otherwise tedious task, one I perform often. If you have small kids, definitely check it out!

grape-cutter

 

Pile on the Miles Challenge

This fitness challenge, set up by Monica Olivas of Run Eat Repeat, allows you to set an exercise goal for yourself between Nov. 1-26. It encourages you remain accountable for your exercise during this season of indulgence. Your goal can be anything-minutes, miles, walking, running, weigh lifting, you name it. I signed up to run 3 miles 3x/week, which seems like a realistic goal for me. You check in and log your activity daily and can even win a number of raffle prizes! What is your goal?

Pile on the Miles

 

Michael Raven Bootie

I bought this bootie early this fall and have been psyched with the purchase. First, they’re adorable. Second, you can slip into them easily-to straps, no zippers, perfect for on-the-go. Lastly, they have a small wedge, giving this short person a little lift, but I’m still able to walk in them all day and never experience any foot pain or soreness.  I’ve gotten many, many compliments on them, and for $59.99 (I think I paid even less with a coupon), you can’t go wrong!

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So, what are you into lately?

 

Herbed Salmon and Spinach

Hello and welcome to November! I’m a little partial to November, as it’s also my birthday month and we get to celebrate Thanksgiving! Who doesn’t love an excuse to eat massive amounts of comfort food and take a nap?? I’m hosting this year, so I’m looking for any and all recommendations for side dishes. Is there anything you and your family love and would like to share?  Please do so in the comments!

In the meantime, I’ve put together one of my favorite weeknight meals. It’s no secret that I love fish, so we generally eat fish 2-3 nights a week. This one combines salmon with garlic, oil, and spices for a super flavorful dish. In combination with garlicky sautéed spinach and it’s pretty much my favorite meal.  Here’s how it came together…

Ingredients:

1 lb. salmon, cut into 3-4 filets

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. Herbs d’Provence

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 box fresh baby spinach

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the olive oil, 3 cloves of minced garlic, herbs d’Provence, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and mix well. I use a zester to mince the garlic, it’s super easy.

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Cut the salmon into 3-4 filets and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Generously spread the oil/garlic/spice mixture evenly over each filet.

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Place the salmon in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Smaller pieces may cook more quickly.

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With about 5 minutes left for the salmon to bake, place the spinach in a sauté pan on medium low heat.  Once the first pieces have begun to wilt, add the last clove of minced garlic and a small pinch of salt.

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Serve with a nice glass of white wine and enjoy!

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