Vegetarian Chili and Nachos

Here’s a few shots from a “how to” article I shot for Walgreens last week. It’s a super easy veggie chili with a healthy spin on traditional nachos. The nachos use baked pita chips in place of tortillas, topped with a homemade bean puree, crumbled feta, avocado and diced veggies. Initially, I thought nachos were no place for a cheese like feta, but I must admit, I was sorely wrong. These are awesome and hearty enough to make for a quick light meal.

a link to the full recipe will be posted later this week!

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Valentine’s Day Breakfast ideas

Take Valentine’s Day/ Snow Day breakfast up a notch this year with these cool spins on egg sammies and p-cakes. If your in the northeast and have been hit by the snow fairies, you probably have a little extra time in the morning to cook these up.

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out of maple syrup?

try a homemade strawberry syrup. Add a few spoonfuls of strawberry jam and some mashed strawberries to a small saucepan and simmer for a few minutes. ricotta pancakes with berries-1

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Polar Vortex Ice Cream

Did you know you can make ice cream out of snow?

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Now, eating snow is a personal decision. Personally, I am OK with it.

I am more cautious about foods that come out of a lab than foods that come out of a sky.

And it is a new activity for the kids on their 657th snow day this year. (it feels like the 657th snow day, anyway)

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Maple Snow Ice Cream

6 cups of clean fresh snow

1/2 cup cream or half and half

4 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

5 Ways to Turn Your Digital Family Photos into Unique Handmade Gifts

Anne Dale Photography

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Digital photography has opened up new outlets of creative possibilities to use and display our photographs.  We can not only create heirloom albums and large canvas wall prints but we can also use those digital files to  create unique, fun gifts and home decor items while showcasing our family memories. Here are 5 ideas to get your creative juices flowing. For most of these projects, I used items that I found in my home or in my backyard to create meaningful and memorable photo-gifts.

1. Photo Garland

Garland is a simple and fun way to add a whimsical touch to your holiday decor.  This version of garland is made up of recycled fallen branches and strung together for a rustic, and natural feel. This garland can be personalized by adding photographs, names, messages or mini-drawings. Each family member can make their own branch tile and string them together for a…

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Chicken Salad with Cinnamon Bread

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I have a case of the busies.

Busy baking.

Busy making.

Busy shopping.

Busy wrapping.

Busy being busy.

An absolutely obscene amount of sugar has entered my kitchen in the past week. Sugar in all its forms: refined, powdered, brown, raw, not to mention syrupy sugars in all grades and shades, leaving me at the end of a sugary sweet slope, just longing for some real food.

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Something satisfying but not stodgy, something easy, comforting and that doesn’t involve turning on the stove or using multiple dishes.

Something like these little cinnamon-y chicken salad tea sandwiches that my mom used to serve at events when she ran a catering business.

chicken salad on cinnamon bread

Upon serving these sandwiches, you will surely spot people walking around with a stack of them, muttering something to the effect of…

“These are amazing! I would have never thought to put chicken salad on cinnamon bread!”

This sandwich is so versatile; it can be a satisfying break during tree decorating and light hanging or this year’s best New Year’s Eve party finger food.

Or both. I would go with both.

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Apple Walnut Chicken Salad on Cinnamon Bread

Makes 4-5 sandwiches

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked, shredded or chopped chicken

¾ cup of diced apple

3 stalks celery, diced

½ chopped toasted walnuts

½ cup mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon Braggs apple cider vinegar

4 teaspoons honey

Salt and pepper to taste

8-10 slices of cinnamon bread

Directions:

Mix all ingredients, except for the bread. Butter the bread slices. (Optional)

Layer the chicken salad on the bread slices and cut into 4 equal triangles.

Because triangles are just way cooler than squares.

Chocolate Butter Mints

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These are slow mints. Not the sort of thing you shovel into your chute like a handful of M&M’s or a plate of brownies. These treats just kind of linger on your tongue for a bit as the minty, buttery sweetness slowly dissolves. And if someone offers you a slice of triple chocolate cake, you will most definitely say something like:

“ No thanks, I am really enjoying this super awesome mint”.

And you will be so proud of yourself for not eating that ridiculously indulgent dessert, and instead opting for one of these Chocolate Butter Mints.

Chocolate Butter Mints

There is just enough butter in here to bind the sugar together to form a little patty that is suitable for a minty melting experience.

Ingredients:

4 Tablespoons butter

4 cups confectioner sugar

2 Tablespoons water

¼ teaspoon peppermint oil

½ cup chocolate

Mix the butter, sugar, water and peppermint oil together in a bowl. It will be slightly crumbly. Take about a third of the batter out and knead it onto a surface dusted with confectioner sugar. Flatten it out to a patty about ¼ inch thick. Slice into little squares or rectangles, and repeat with the remaining dough.

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Melt the chocolate in a double broiler and use a butter knife to spread a thin layer of chocolate on each one. Allow to cool in the fridge.

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Hot Cocoa with Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Last fall I attended the most beautiful Vermont wedding atop a mountain of screaming brilliant autumn treetops.  The tables were set with clusters of tiny vintage glass bottles with fresh picked wildflowers.

After a few drinks, I talked to everyone within earshot about the beautiful glass bottles, and I must have been pretty enthusiastic, since many kind folks even gave me their souvenir bottles. By the end of the night, my husband’s coat pockets were clanking with the bottles I collected throughout the night.

After all, I couldn’t fit them in my evening gown!

These bottles were the first thing that came to mind when I made this pot of Homemade Chocolate Syrup.

This chocolate syrup stirs seamlessly in with warm milk, and just a small spoonful delivers a subtly sweet and rich chocolate flavor. After all, there is nothing worse than powdered hot chocolate mixes that clump at the bottom of a cup or the overly sugared syrups that are completely void of any semblance of real chocolate…

So make a big pot of this syrup and funnel into pretty glass jars for a beautiful homemade Christmas gift. Especially nice paired with a little sac of marshmallows.

And you don’t even have to bake a single cookie.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Recipe adapted from: Betty Groff, Good Earth Country Cooking

1 cup cocoa powder

4 cups sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1.5 quarts water

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder*, dissolved in 1/8 cup water

1 Tablespoon vanilla

Directions:

1. In a large saucepan, mix cocoa, sugar and salt. Stir well with a whisk to fully incorporate.

2. Turn the heat to medium and add the water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

3. As it begins to form bubbles, mix in the arrowroot/water mixture and cook until thickened, 8-12 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Keeps in the fridge for several months.

*Arrowroot powder can be found in the natural food section and is a gluten-free alternative to cornstarch.

Spiked Cranberry Citrus Slush

Who says cranberry sauce has to be that goopy, jelly like condiment plopped out onto the plate? I know, this is the time of year that people want the same dishes they have eaten every Thanksgiving for the past 30 years. And to go and change something, even something as a simple as the cranberry condiment could disrupt the whole harmony of the holiday. Because that’s what make the holidays so great.  The recipes made by grandmothers and great aunts who are long gone, and these edible memories are the only thing we have left to keep us connected to our past.

And then people like me go and try to change something as crucial as the cranberry sauce. So I would never recommend replacing your traditional cranberry sauce with cranberry slushy, but rather, adding to it. Because not only does this cold, icy texture make a great contrast with warm turkey, but it can also double as a cocktail mix. Just mix equal parts vodka and cranberry slush for a festive cranberry cocktail.

Spiked Cranberry Citrus Slush

Recipe adapted from Betty Groff

1 lb. Cranberries

½ cup water

1 ½ cups sugar

2 cups club soda

Juice of 2 limes

Juice of 2 grapefruits

Vodka (optional)

Wash cranberries and put in a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook until the berries are starting to soften and burst. Using a wood spoon, start mashing the berries against the walls of the pot to help smooth it out. While the berries are hot, stir in the sugar. Allow to cool and add the lime juice, grapefruit juice and soda. Pour into a Quiche or pie plate and freeze for a few hours or until a slushy like- texture and serve in the pie plate.

Optional adult version: float a tablespoon of vodka on top just before serving. It cuts the sweetness a bit.

Use any leftover slushy as a cocktail mix, just mix 2 oz. vodka with 2 oz. cranberry slushy.

Homemade Gingersnaps

I bake when I am sad and cook when I’m hungry.

I was sad because everything I made this week turned to a mush or a plop or a splatter or a schlop.

So I made cookies because even if they burn, at least I get to lick the batter.

I noticed a pattern, though. Whenever something is bothering me, when my mind is somewhere else, I start to burn things. And not in a pyromaniac sort of way like the kid in grade school who was always lighting the teacher’s trashcan on fire.

I just burn food in pots and pans.

And ovens.

And toaster ovens.

But I didn’t burn (all of) these…

Homemade Gingersnaps

You know those infamous orange and brown cookie boxes that appear every fall and lurk on the end caps of every supermarket in America?

Well once you make them at home, you will never eat one from an orange box again. The rich molasses creamed together with warm butter and sugar and infused with freshly grated ginger and nutmeg is a flavor profile not to be missed this time of year. You can make them thin and crispy, with a biscotti like crunch and dunk them in hot tea, or you can under bake them a tad for a chewy gooey version that the wee ones can sink their teeth into.

Not to mention that these are probably the most nutrient dense cookie on the planet.

recipe adapted from Mark Bittman

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger (peel ginger root and use a grater with tiny holes)

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 Tablespoons hot water

3 ½ cups flour

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves

 

Directions:

Cream together the sugar, butter, molasses and fresh ginger. Mix the baking soda with the water and beat into the sugar-butter mixture.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl and fold into the butter mixture. Stir until completely mixed. Form the dough into two logs. Roll the logs onto sheets of wax paper. (The dough is super sticky, so sprinkling the wax paper with flour will help reduce stickiness) Freeze for a few hours or overnight.

Remove the dough from the freezer and preheat the oven to 350. Slice the dough into rounds. If you like crispy, crunchy cookies, slice them super thin. If you like them a little chewier and softer, cut them slightly thicker. Baking time will vary from 7-10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Keep a close eye on the first batch to modify the timing. Cool on a wire rack.

 

These would be perfect tied with twine and a little name tag as a little treat for your Thanksgiving guests. Or tuck them into a tiny pot as a hostess gift.

 

Balsamic Apples and Roast Pork with Speckled Mustard

Balsamic Apples and Roast Pork with Speckled Mustard

“If we are what we eat, then I only want the best.” Ratatouille

When my husband and I started dating, we woke up every morning at 4:30am to squeeze in an early morning weight lifting session at the gym. On the weekends, we climbed mountains, ran marathons and biked until our cheeks were too sore to sit.

At one point, our living room furniture was replaced with Pilates balls and an exercise bike.

6 years and two kids later,  our running routine involves barefoot games of Sharks and Minnows and our weightlifting regimen has been replaced with tickling tournaments and kitchen dancing with two thirty pound toddlers.  We push a mammoth double stroller up steep hills while singing lullabies as the sun sets on the suburban sidewalks.

And although many things have changed over the years, 2 things will always be the same.

1. We will always love each other.

2. We will always eat great food together.

Happy Anniversary Steve, I love you and I will always make your favorite dinner for you…

Balsamic Apples and Roast Pork with Speckled  Mustard

So it’s like a grown up fancy-pants version of hot dogs slathered in mustard with a side of applesauce. Except it’s really not that fancy. It’s pretty simple, with only a few ingredients, most of which may be hanging out in your pantry.

Start roasting the pork in the afternoon while you go outback and rake leaves into colossal piles or stay at home in your jammies and build forts out of couch cushions and warm blankets and watch each others hair stand on end with static… or whatever else you do on lazy Sunday afternoons.

The Newlywed Version (adapted from Men’s Health)

1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter

2 Boneless Pork chops

2 apples, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

1  Tablespoon bourbon or whiskey

Side of good quality grainy, country style Dijon Mustard

Sauté garlic in olive oil until softened, add the pork chops and cook on medium-high heat for 6-10 minutes. As it cooks, whisk together the vinegar, whiskey, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the mixture to the pan, filling in the spaces between the pork chops. Turn the pork chops over and stir the apples, cook for another 6-10 minutes until done.  Serve with mustard and a side salad.

The Family Version:

Pork Loin Roast, 2-3 pounds

4-5 apples, chopped

2 cloves garlic

4 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

5 Tablespoon whiskey or bourbon

Preheat oven to 375. Place pork loin in a roasting pan and add about an inch of water. Salt and pepper the roast generously. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 2 hours (or more, depending on the size of the roast). Whisk together the whiskey, vinegar and garlic in a small bowl.

When the pork has cooked for 2 hours, remove from oven and pour 3-4 tablespoons of the vinegar mixture over the pork. Cook another 30 minutes uncovered, or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees with a 3-5 minutes resting time. Toss the remaining vinegar mixture with the chopped apples in a skillet and saute until tender.

Slice pork and serve with Balsamic apples and a generous portion of speckled grainy mustard.

This pairs really well with a salad made up of fresh Asian pears or apple slices and toasted walnuts all tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette.