Monthly Archives: November 2015

Thanksgiving Menu Part 1

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Usually I have our Thanksgiving menu finalized weeks in advance.  Maybe it is the third kid factor, but for some reason I was way behind on finishing it up.  With less than a week to go I have finally finished the menu and I think this will be a yummy Thanksgiving this year.  Over the past 8 years or so we have been tweaking our menu so that we can have a pretty relaxing Thanksgiving even though we have a LOT of food.  Here are the dishes that we have on our menu that we are able to prep a few days and some even a few weeks in advance.

Cranberry Bars: This recipe has been on our menu forever.  It was published in Gourmet magazine before Conde Nast made the awful decision to nix it.  I usually make these a few days before Thanksgiving since they keep well in an airtight container.  That is, if we don’t eat them all before Thanksgiving.  I may have to make a second batch since these are one of our “snacks” for Thanksgiving and knowing that makes it seem totally fine to nibble on them all week.  Kind of like having Halloween candy around before Halloween. 

Sweet and tart cranberries atop a crumbly shortbread make for the perfect all-day snack on Thanksgiving.

Sweet and tart cranberries atop a crumbly shortbread make for the perfect all-day snack on Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Sauce with Port and Tangerine: This is another of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes.  I usually double it since we love it so much and we use it in our breakfast on Thanksgiving.  I love to make this recipe because not only does it taste great, it is really fun to watch the cranberries burst!  I am a food science nerd!

Turkey Leg Confit: This is a new recipe for us this year.  I wasn’t able to find duck fat but I did find some goose fat so we are going to try that instead.  And I am not roasting the breasts as the recipe calls for.  We are making this ahead because we love dark meat and who doesn’t love anything that braises in fat? Since we are making it ahead it will give us extra dark meat and not require the oven on the day of.  Win-win.  (We’re going to make a porchetta-style turkey breast with the breast to have for dinner early in the week…we’ll be gobbling soon!).  We’ll be making this one on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. 

Turkey Stock: This year I roasted a turkey early so that I could make some homemade stock since I haven’t found a store bought option that I like.  I froze the stock in quart size freezer bags…and had almost a bowlful before I finished putting it away.  This recipe calls for roasting the veggies before adding them to the stock and I think that is what makes this stock AMAZING!

Roasting veggies for our turkey stock in our teeny tiny German oven...with no oven light.  Reminds me to be thankful that we do have an oven and food to put in it.

Roasting veggies for our turkey stock in our teeny tiny German oven…with no oven light. Reminds me to be thankful that we do have an oven and food to put in it.

Cider GravySince we do a non-traditional turkey I realized last year that I need to have “normal” gravy to go with stuffing and mashed potatoes.  I roasted a turkey this week so that I could make the stock AND this yummy gravy.  We used just a smidge of it when we ate the turkey and I froze the rest. 

Pumpkin Five-Spice Ice Cream: If you live in Ohio you can swing by a fancy grocery store to find this fresh from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.  I have the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home cookbook and am obsessed with it.  We had this ice cream last year and it was a big hit so we made it again.  Since ice creams can stay happy in the freezer I usually start making them a few weeks ahead.  This year I was “so behind” since I just made it a few days ago!

Cranberry Royale Sorbet: Since I am cranberry obsessed and love a nice sparkling wine this one just had to be on the menu.  A scoop in a champagne glass topped with Prosecco…I die.  This is just one of the reasons I cleaned out all of the fresh cranberries at the grocery store yesterday. (Sorry to anyone else needing them 🙂 ).

I put most of the turkey stock in the freezer in quart size bags and laid them flat to freeze quickly and use our space well.  I saved this quart of dark golden goodness to use this week to make some soup.  Yum!

I put most of the turkey stock in the freezer in quart size bags and laid them flat to freeze quickly and use our space well. I saved this quart of dark golden goodness to use this week to make some soup. Yum!

Baked Apple Sorbet: This is one we had last year and was super easy and yummy so we are having it again.  If you have never made homemade ice cream (or sorbet) this is a great one to start with.  You just bake some apples with spices, blend it and then whizzzzz it in the ice cream maker.  Could. Not. Be. Easier.

Gucci Muu Muu (Chocolate Ice Cream with Coconut). Hubby bubby requested a chocolaty ice cream for Thanksgiving this year so we are trying this one out.  I haven’t made this before, but since the recipes in the Jeni’s book use a similar process it should turn out well and be kid friendly to boot!

Garlicky Potato Apple Soup: We are trying a new soup this year since we can’t find the recipe for the best ever soup we had a few years ago and didn’t love the one from last year.  We will make the soup the weekend before Thanksgiving and then freeze it in baby food ice cube trays.  We heat it up on the stove on Thanksgiving and then have it in a slow cooker for when guests arrive since I feel like the eating should really be a marathon.  A cranberry bar here, some soup there…perfect way to warm up for the big meal.

This is the best gravy separator of all time.  When you squeeze the handle the good stuff drains from the bottom and you can leave the fat in the separator.  Genius!

This is the best gravy separator of all time. When you squeeze the handle the good stuff drains from the bottom and you can leave the fat in the separator. Genius!

What are your favorite make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes?  What is your best tip for a relaxing Thanksgiving?  I hope you like the links to all of the recipe sources.  Let me know in the comments section below!

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Thanksgiving Dry Run

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I have a confession.  I think about Thanksgiving all year long.  I start planning the menu at the first sign of weather turning chilly.  Usually I start making ice cream several weeks before Thanksgiving.  I had an almost panicked moment, “I’m so far behind!” We have no ice cream in our freezer, gasp!  A few deep breaths later I realized that most normal people are still planning their Thanksgiving meals, too.  Our menu this week is our dry run for roasting a turkey in our brand new oven.  Fingers crossed that it goes well!

Sunday: Fettuccine with Sausage and Kale and salad.  Since this is the week before Thanksgiving (aka crunch time) I decided to add a few things to the menu that we’ve had before. Even though I’ll still have to make them it will be nice to have my cooking brain on auto-pilot for a few meals.  This fettuccine was super easy and we all loved it.  I think I even spotted Ryan eating some of the kale!

We love pasta. I usually save some of the pasta boiling water in case our sauce needs a little more pizza.

We love pasta. I usually save some of the pasta boiling water in case our sauce needs a little more pizza.

Monday: Ribollita. If you have never had ribollita you must try this recipe. It is such a hearty soup that hubby bubby not only doesn’t mind that there is soup on the menu but he LOVES this recipe!  There are so many veggies and beans and just a little smidge of pancetta (we are using bacon this time) so it is not only hearty but healthy to boot. 

Tuesday: Sage Butter-Roasted Turkey with Cider Gravy, Apple and Pistachio Brussels Sprout Salad and some kind of potatoes. This is our Thanksgiving dry run. When we were at the grocery store hubby bubby caught me trying to add three turkeys to our cart.  They are frozen, what is a girl to do?  I need to get them all early enough so that I can thaw them safely.  He reminded me that we don’t have that much fridge space so I reluctantly put one back.  So, I ended up getting a ten pounder for today and a fourteen pounder to test thawing times.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday: Leftover Makeover with Turkey Tortas.  Usually we just have boring leftovers that I don’t try to fancy up at all. I think that might be a New Year’s Resolution in the works…do a better job with leftovers.  Anywho, this week we get one of the best leftover items evahhhhh.  I made this last year the day after Thanksgiving and it was amazing.  It is worth roasting a turkey just to have this torta.  For reals.

I know kale is "so last year" but who couldn't love these beauties?

I know kale is “so last year” but who couldn’t love these beauties?

Thursday: Spicy Pumpkin Chili.  This is one we haven’t tried before but it sounds so amazing and we have a gazillion cans of pumpkin so I just had to put it on the menu.  Hannah has dance in the afternoon so I am planning to get it finished before we leave for dance and then just keep it in our slow cooker on low until we get home.  What is better than chili on a cold Fall day?

Friday: Parents’ Night Out! Woohoo! We will give the kiddos some leftovers before we drop them off and then hubby bubby and I will go out for a hot date.  I’m not sure where we’ll go yet.  Guess I should start figuring that out!

We sure do love these kiddos, but what parents don't need a night out every now and then, right?!

We sure do love these kiddos, but what parents don’t need a night out every now and then, right?!

Saturday: Buffalo Chicken Buffalitos.  The chicken recipe is a slow cooker fave (I leave out the margarine) and I use it to make our version of the Buffalitos they have on the menu at Buffalo Wild Wings. I just shred some lettuce and pick up some pico de gallo and tortillas and they are divine.  Perfect for some college football watching.

This week I added links to all of the recipes we’ll be having. Hopefully you like them!  Let me know in the comments below.  Have a delicious week!

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Weeknight Entertaining

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I declare weeknights the best for entertaining. (Makes it so official, right?)  For us, the best night of the week for entertaining is Tuesday.  Now that we have entertained two Tuesdays in a row I am completely hooked.  Tuesdays are the weekday that we have the least amount of activities going on.  A little respite that begs for some fun.  If you live anywhere near us prepare for an invite.  Here is my super convincing argument for why you should entertain on weeknights.

Blackberry rhubarb crisp is a great dessert for entertaining...add a dollop of ice cream and it is sweet and tart perfection!

Blackberry rhubarb crisp is a great dessert for entertaining…add a dollop of ice cream and it is sweet and tart perfection!

  1.  Entertaining on weeknights frees up your weekend. Thanks, Captain Obvious (right?). But, not so fast. We live somewhere that people are always going to the coolest places on weekends. Daytrips, long weekends, vacations, the whole deal. Entertaining on a weeknight means that we can go do all these things, too!
  2. It’s easier to stay closer to your healthy eating habits on weekdays. Weekdays feel more routine and rigid which can be good and bad. The good part is that having people over on a weeknight busts up the routine and makes it more exciting. But, being used to the weekly routine also makes it a time when you will still have your “healthy choices” momentum going for the week and it’ll make it easier for you to keep portions reasonable.
  3. Some weekdays are the worst…but your friends aren’t. Ya know those days that just seem like your life has become The Office (like work will never end and you are counting the minutes ’til the weekend)? Or your kids all decide to take turns revolting?  Is it better if they do it at once or tag-off all day long? I still can’t decide. Looking forward to having some of your favorite people over for dinner makes it so much easier to get to dinner time in one piece.

    Pasta, chicken and salad are some of our favorites for entertaining.

    Pasta, chicken and salad are some of our favorites for entertaining.

  4. Everyone loves when someone else makes dinner. Word. Everyone is always busy. That is a given no matter who your friends are. They need a nice meal. And on a busy weeknight giving them one less thing to worry about may just make you their favorite person.
  5. You won’t feel like a goober for going to bed early. I have to be in pajamas around 9 pm. When we entertain on weekends I always get so tired! On weeknights everyone has something to do the next day so no one can stay out too late. This makes me feel normal! (Okay, at least normal in this regard.)

    Something roasted is always a great option for entertaining...while it cooks you have tons of time to get other things ready!

    Something roasted is always a great option for entertaining…while it cooks you have tons of time to get other things ready!

  6. You’ll make so much food you’ll have two dinners for the week instead of just one. No one ever likes to run out of food so chances are you’ll end up making enough food for you, your guests and the next night, too. Two dinners in one, hollaaaaaaa!
  7. It is a great excuse to make your favorite things. Any normal weeknight it would just feel weird to make something fancy or super yummy or something that may take a little extra planning. If you entertain on a weeknight you can take those liberties and not feel like a big geek. Go ahead, make dessert even.

What do you think is the best night of the week to entertain?  I’d love to hear your reasons why in the comments section below!

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Leftovers Galore

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This week we had friends over mid-week and I am finally getting into a groove with meal planning since our big move to Germany. I have been thinking about our usual week and trying to plan meals that work with our schedule. We don’t have any kid activities on Tuesday afternoons so those are days that I can make a dinner that may take more time.  This is a big week for Hannah since we just found out that a space opened up for her to go to pre-K instead of the part-day preschool she has been going to. She will have homework and is allowed to bring a backpack. She’s a pretty big deal and could not be more excited!

Good thing Hannah has been working on her reading (note the box of spaghetti on the way home from the grocery store).  She's definitely going to be ready for pre-K in a few weeks!

Good thing Hannah has been working on her reading (note the box of spaghetti on the way home from the grocery store). She’s definitely going to be ready for pre-K in a few weeks!

Sunday: Leftovers. We ran a little (a lot) late going to the grocery store. We didn’t make it there until almost 1pm! We usually make it there by 11am. Needless to say our whole schedule for the day was thrown off so we didn’t have time to make dinner before church. We peeked in the fridge and realized we had leftovers. Score! Lifesaver!

Monday: Skinny Thai Chicken Meatballs with Peanut Sauce with Edamame. This was SO fun to make! Do you have any kitchen gadgets that you love to use? For me it is my cookie scooper. I think I love to harness my inner lunch lady. I used my 2 tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop up the meatballs. It really was a win-win since I didn’t get my hands icky (this is always good when the three kiddos are running rampant) and it portioned the meatballs evenly. Love that! I kept half of the meatballs out of the sauce so that the kids would have some that were not spicy and they tore it up. I forgot how edamame obsessed Ryan is and only had one bag of the steamable edamame. Ryan let the rest of us have a few, luckily. Big thank you to JoCooks.com for the awesome recipe!

Anything that allows me to use my cookie scoop is a winner for me.  I LOVE meatballs!!!!

Anything that allows me to use my cookie scoop is a winner for me. I LOVE meatballs!!!!

Tuesday: Aleppo Pepper-Roasted Pork with Shallot Vinaigrette, Pasta Salad with Walnuts, Gorgonzola and Mozzarella and Salted Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Cookies. I recently decided that weeknights are the best nights evahhhh for entertaining. I picked a recipe this time that hubby hadn’t had yet since I made it for my fam when I was visiting them in May. This pork is a must-try. Really. Super easy since you just prep the rub the night before and then just pop it in the oven. While it roasted I was able to make the vinaigrette, prep the pasta, bake cookies and even clean up a little. 🙂 The cookies are a must try, too. Kinda like a Reese’s cup in cookie form with some salt…yum!

Wednesday: Kielbasa and ‘Kraut. This was a Rachael Ray recipe that I really liked but hubby didn’t dig so much. Everyone ate the kielbasa and onions. Ryan was weirded out that our apples got mushy. He also did not approve of the ‘kraut on his potatoes. We ended up with tons of potatoes and ‘kraut left and ran out of kielbasa. Ugh. I thought it was good, but not as good as my fave slow cooker recipe with pierogis. And with hubs not liking it we ended up just deleting this one from my recipe organizer. So sad.

Daddy had a tough job while I made the kielbasa and 'kraut: snuggling the littlest angel.

Daddy had a tough job while I made the kielbasa and ‘kraut: snuggling the littlest angel.

Thursday: Carrabba’s Chicken Bryan, Pasta with Herb Sauce and Salad. This is hubby’s fave meal and he wanted to have it earlier in the week but I had already had the beginning of the week planned so we just filled it in for Thursday. We have made it so many times that it is pretty easy for us to pull it together. The pasta is one we found in the Joy of Cooking a looooong time ago and have made so many times. I really need to make sure I plant some oregano, marjoram and chives in my herb garden next year.

Friday: Date night. Hubby wasn’t feeling good and got progressively worse throughout the day so we ended up just having leftovers. At least we had one of his fave meals on Thursday so leftovers were not too shabby.

Saturday: Leftovers. We still had a lot of random bits of dinners from the week left so we decided to just take it easy and have leftovers. Thank goodness we had some good food this week!

She IS so cute it's scary!  Guess I should actually put this shirt away now that it is past Halloween.  If anyone is interested in this cute shirt it is a 9 mo size...send me a message on my "contact me" page and it's yours!

She IS so cute it’s scary! Guess I should actually put this shirt away now that it is past Halloween. If anyone is interested in this cute shirt it is a 9 mo size…send me a message on my “contact me” page and it’s yours!

How did your dinners go this week?  What is your favorite day of the week to entertain?  I’d love to know in the comments section below!

 

 

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Tips for dealing with BMI screening

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I was recently asked by a physician if it is bad for a kid that is really tall to be at the 90th percentile for BMI.  Loaded question, right?  In this situation the school nurse had mentioned concern about the child’s BMI to the family and the family was not sure how to take that information.  I am sure many people experience something similar so I wanted to share my perspective as a dietitian that has worked with lots of families with overweight kiddos.  Here are some things to keep in mind when someone mentions one of the “o” words:

  1. Don’t panic. This is easier said than done. If someone uses one of the “o” words (overweight or obese) it stings. Some people are great at talking about weight in a nonjudgmental and helpful way. Others are lousy at it and make ya feel terrible. Try not to panic if you hear these words. The growth charts are tools that help identify disease risk. Your child will likely be at different percentiles each time they are weighed and measured. One measurement is not as important as trends, but every measurement is an opportunity to become a little bit healthier.

2.  School nurses and health care providers, in general, are nice people. A school nurse or pediatrician that addresses your child’s weight is trying to do the right thing. Sometimes messages can come across in a way that will make you wanna go hide in a cave. This is not what is intended, I would almost guarantee it. If your pediatrician heard a heart murmur you would want to know, right? They are focusing on your child’s growth and health, not really their weight.

Going for a walk at a nearby castle as a family was a great way to make a memory and burn some energy!

Going for a walk at a nearby castle as a family was a great way to make a memory and burn some energy!

3.  Kids are not adults. The goals for a kiddo that is overweight are much different than those for an overweight adult. The first step for kids is to slow weight gain which does not mean that a kiddo needs to “hit the treadmill” or go on a “diet”.

4.  There is no “u” in team. Lifestyle changes are the best way to help all kids lean in the direction of better health. Whether a kiddo is overweight or normal weight all kids like to have fun and no one likes to feel singled out. Playing a game together as a family will be something you can get your kiddo to do again and again and will help you, too. Multitasking win!

5.  Growing taller and staying the same weight will lower BMI. The BMI is the body mass index and is a proportion of weight to height (squared). If a kiddo keeps growing taller and gains weight slower than they were previously gaining then their BMI will drop. This will allow your kiddo to trend into a healthier weight range without losing weight.

Carrots as a snack? Yes, please!

Carrots as a snack? Yes, please!

6.  Everyone could eat a little better. It wouldn’t hurt anyone to eat some extra fruits and veggies. Focusing on the things everyone in your family should eat more of will make everyone a little healthier. Pickles are a vegetable. ‘Nuff said.

7.  When in doubt, just count. Backwards. And leave out some numbers. Ever heard of “5-2-1-0”? If not, you will. It is pure genius. This is the catchy phrase of the Let’s Go! program that was implemented in Maine and has taken the rest of the states by storm. It is a simple way to remember to focus on taking in five fruits and veggies daily, limiting screen time to two or fewer hours (more time to be active!) per day, being active for an hour every day and eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages. For more info visit http://www.letsgo.org/.

What are some things that you do to help increase your activity and fruit and veggie intake? What do you think about the “o” words? I’d love to hear in the comments section below!

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