Merry Christmas – Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Bear started Christmas with the flew (so sad!) but recovered in time for Christmas Eve. Even though we had to take it easy, our weekend was still lovely and magical and filled with fun and family. Joel, Bear, and I had plans to spend the remainder of the week going on fun family outings but, alas, colds and chilly temps have kept us housebound (and stir crazy). Here’s to praying for a healthier 2018. Happy Ney Year!

The Menu


Mustard Stewed Acorn Squash with Chicken (recipe from Todd Porter & Diane Cu @ Food & Wine)

This recipe had excellent flavor but, as I expected, a 15 minute simmer wasn’t long enough to soften the rind on the acorn squash. We had to spit the rind out between forkfuls. Joel made me promise never to make this recipe again. I didn’t think it was that bad, although I would certainly slice the acorn squash thinner next time. I also might try roasting the squash before adding it to the chicken and serving the whole lot over rice.

Sides: Toasted naan with butter + Sautéed Swiss chard finished with 2 tbsp butter, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a pour of red wine vinegar


Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Yoghurt (recipe from Twinks @

This is one of the strangest macaroni and cheese recipes I have come across and it is also our favorite. The sauce, a mixture of plain yogurt; grated onion; mustard; and cheddar cheese, comes together quickly. This recipe is tangy, cheesy, and addicting without tasting at all like yogurt. Since the onion is only briefly cooked, you will need to grate your onion on the fine side of a box grater. Otherwise, you might risk crunchy onion in your macaroni and cheese. No one wants that. Also, I like to top my macaroni and cheese with torn sandwich bread that I have tossed with a bit of melted butter, before sliding it into the hot oven. What emerges is a pan of gooey pasta with a crunchy crouton topping.

A quick note on ingredients. I always achieve my best results using Stonyfield Farm Organic Plain Cream Top Yogurt, Organic Valley Sharp Cheddar Cheese, and regular yellow mustard.

Sides: Steamed broccoli + Raw red pepper strips


Mexican Steak Fajitas (recipe from Shirley Hilger @ Taste of Home)

By far my favorite fajita recipe. The steak is quickly marinated in a mixture of orange juice, white vinegar, garlic, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Sometimes I like to dump all of the marinade into the pan for extra saucy fajitas.

Sides: Shredded red cabbage pan sautéed and finished with 2 tbsp butter, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a pour of red wine vinegar + Best Guacamole & tortilla chips


Roasted Yams & Chickpeas with Yogurt (recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

Ooh, you know I love a salted yogurt sauce. I also love chickpeas and roasted yams. Therefore, I thought this recipe was DELICIOUS! Joel even liked it. The only thing is, this is a light dinner. Something I’m not that accustomed to. If you, like me, prefer a little more sustenance at dinner make this recipe for lunch and eat it happily all week long.

Sides: Steamed green beans with butter


Dinner out at Alma Café. 5:00 p.m. is an excellent time to dine with a two-and-a half-year-old.


Crispy Skillet Turkey BurgersAdapted (recipe from Cook’s Country magazine (December/January 2017)

Another repeat recipe. We eat our turkey burgers sans bun and with a large dollop of Dijon mustard.


1 lb ground turkey
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup) – note: Cook’s Country calls for Monterey Jack Cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Salt &  1/2 teaspoon Pepper – note: Cook’s Country does not specify quantities
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Hamburger buns


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Combine turkey, panko, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and salt & pepper in a bowl and mix together with your hands.
  3. Form the turkey into four 3/4-inch-thick- patties.
  4. Heat oil in a large 10-in oven-proof skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
  5. Add patties and cook two minutes per side.
  6. Slide the skillet into the oven and bake until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F (about 8-10 minutes).

Sides: Sautéed collard greens with butter and sea salt + Black Rice tossed with vinaigrette, scallions, and mint (I followed the directions for the farro in this recipe)



Home with a sick Bear eating chicken broth with rice while Joel began the festivities at his parent’s annual Christmas Eve Squared party 🙁

(Dec 17th, 2017 – Dec 23rd, 2017)

Christmas Cookies Galore

Bear and I set out to make two more batches of Christmas cookies this week. First up, Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares. We used white marshmallows for ours, and I took the advice of the top reviewer and stirred in just enough rice krispies to give the bars some crunch without turning them into rice krispie bars. These bars are so good (and so rich). I can’t stop eating them. Really, it’s the texture. Spongy marshmallow, crispy cereal, and fudgy butterscotch peanut butter. Yum! I’m pretty sure there won’t be any left for Christmas. We also made Chocolate Mint Crackles, which I make every year. Chocolate and mint are such a good pairing. I’ve tried both mint extract and peppermint extract over the years and, I have to say, I prefer peppermint. It’s a little softer against the semi-sweet chocolate. Wishing everyone out there a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The Menu


Traditional Dutch Pannekoeken (recipe from Farbissenah @ Group Recipes)

Why stand over a hot stove flipping numerous pancakes in the morning when you can make one delicious eggy Dutch baby for breakfast. I’ve tried many pannekoeken recipes and I always come back to this one. If baked in a 9-in pie plate, it puffs up beautiful and sturdy. Once it’s out of the oven, squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top, sprinkle it with powered sugar, and cut it into thick wedges. Serve it with a puddle of real maple syrup.

Chicken Cesar Salad (No Recipe)

Ok, I stole this dinner idea from my in-laws because it’s genius! It’s so easy, you never need a recipe. Simply, wash and chop up a head of romaine lettuce and top with chicken, parmesan cheese, croutons, and Cesar salad dressing. Dinner, done. I like homemade croutons, so I made my own using Cook’s Illustrated’s Crunchy Crouton recipe, but it’s not necessary. Shredded rotisserie chicken is also just as nice as cubing and sautéing your own chicken breasts. To amp up the nutritional content tonight, I added roasted sweet potato cubes and steamed green beans.


One-Pot Weeknight Beef Stroganoff (recipe from Christine Gallary @ The Kitchen)

Beef Stroganoff is such a perfect winter meal and this is the easiest version I’ve come across. It’s saucy, meaty, and creamy. You know, it’s comforting. Be sure to serve yours with wide egg noodles that will envelop the sauce and the meat. I used golden egg pappardelle. This is not a recipe for whole wheat fusilli.

Sides: Steamed asparagus with butter


Borscht (recipe from Catherine Newman @ Ben and Birdy)

Borscht. Or more appropriately, Vitamins in a Bowl! I love Borscht. When Joel and I lived in Manhattan, we often frequented Veselka for large bowls of this beaultif pink soup and heaping plates of pierogi. Some of those meals are among my happiest memories of New York. I can’t eat at Veselka whenever I want anymore, but I can make this recipe for borscht and it’s a very good one. It’s tough to strike the right balance between sweet and sour, but this recipe has it. Also, I love the blog. Catherine makes me lagh and laugh. She’s delightful, and her recipes are delicious.

Feta and Chive Sour Cream Scones (recipe from Joy the Baker)

These scones make a very nice side to borscht. They’re tender and punctuated with salty feta, tangy chives, and a crackly top of flaky salt and pungent smoked paprika.


Panko-Crusted Salmon (recipe from Ina Garten @ Food Network)

You guessed it! Another week, another Ina recipe. This is an elegant recipe for salmon and it might just make you feel all fancy on a Wednesday night. The salmon is slicked with Dijon mustard and generously topped with a mountain of oiled breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and parsely. It cooks briefly on the stovetop before finishing in the oven where the breadcrumb topping browns and crisps.

Sides: Buttered & salted farro (topped with a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese) + Steamed & buttered broccoli



Leftovers (aka, a well deserved night off)


Freezer leftovers (bear and I were on our own for dinner)


Tonight we had friends over for dinner. I served my favorite Simple Beef Pot Roast and Creamy Parmesan Polenta with a salad. Amongst the chaos of getting dinner on the table for four adults and two toddlers, I forgot to take a picture. It was delicious!

(Nov 12th, 2017 – Nov 18th, 2017)

Tis the Season – Let the Cookie Baking Begin

Bear and I baked our first batch of Christmas cookies today. She is currently loving the story of the little gingerbread and, at breakfast, requested her own little gingerbread man as she licked apricot jam off her toast. A quick google search landed me squarely on The Most Wonderful Gingerbread Cookies. The title hooked me, so we made the dough and headed over to Williams Sonoma to pick up a cookie cutter while it rested on the counter. Bear watched the little gingerbread men intently as they baked, just to make sure none of them tried to escape. Once cooled, we added a simple powdered sugar frosting for the eyes, mouths, and buttons. The recipe is a good one but I would roll my dough thinner next time.

The Menu


Dinner out after taking Santa pictures at the mall.


Despite going out the night before, we foraged in the freezer for anything that would suffice for dinner. Sometimes we all just need another night off – right?!


Turkey Meatloaf (recipe from Tiffani Thiessen @ Cooking Channel)

I liked this meatloaf. Turkey + oatmeal sounded very appealing, and wholesome, to me last week when I was making out my menu and it worked. It’s not overly flavorful but it’s nice. If you’re not sure about it, do as I did and cut the recipe in half.

Parmesan Smashed Potatoes (recipe from Once Upon a Chef)

Oh man. I could not stop eating these potatoes. They were so good! Ignore the purple hue. I used a bag of mixed fingerling potatoes, in place of red potatoes. There’s no cream or milk in this recipe so the creaminess comes from butter, parmesan cheese, and a ladle or two of the salted cooking water.

Side: Steamed green beans


One-Pot, Vegan, Completely Delicious Lentil Soup (recipe from Alexandra’s Kitchen)

I love vinegar and I love lentils. What more can I say? I obviously loved this soup.

Sides: Greens & vinaigrette* + toasted ciabatta bread with butter

Ok, don’t do as I did and serve greens with a vinaigrette alongside this soup. It was too much vinegar. Even for me.


Spicy Ground Pork and Zucchini Stir-Fry (recipe from Sheela Prakash @ The Kitchn)

Excellent recipe! Pork and zucchini are a perfect pairing and they really zing with the addition of a chili-garlic sauce (I used Sriracha), fresh ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil. This is a quick weeknight dinner packed with flavor. Serve it over basmati rice and dinner is served.

Side: Sautéed lacinato kale with butter and a hit of red wine vinegar and salt


Dinner at Bacio after Christmas shopping at Ridgedale. Always a nice option in that part of town.


Dinner out again (Oy Vey!) after playing all afternoon at our community center.

(Nov 12th, 2017 – Nov 18th, 2017)

Leftovers & Eating Out

The Sticky Toffee Cake with salted caramel, candied orange and sour cream at Red Rabbit in Minneapolis is so crave-worthy. I rang in my 33rd year with it over the summer and still find it to be one of the best desserts in the Twin Cities. Joel, Bear, and I popped in for lunch on Saturday, after visiting the Christmas market at the American Swedish Institute, and had such a nice meal. Sandwiches for the adults and a bowl of plain pasta for Bear. She was quite pleased with her choice.

The Menu


Skillet Chicken Lasagna (recipe from Ree Drummond @ Food Network)

This was not a family favorite. Despite all of the seasoning, it just lacked flavor for us. I rarely toss leftovers but this had to go after we ate it for a second time on Tuesday. Perhaps it’s because I really enjoy cottage cheese in my lasagna -? Maybe I used the wrong marinara-? Try it if you want or use this meal idea to seek out another skillet lasagna recipe.

Sides: Steamed broccoli


Leftover Skillet Chicken Lasagna with frozen green beans and salad.


Lentils with Crispy Sausages (recipe from Dinner a Love Story)

This recipe is delicious! I wanted to take a photo of it, and I tried from many angles, but this is not a pretty dish.

Fry up the sausage, cook the lentils, make the vinaigrette, and throw it all together in a bowl to mingle. I find that I enjoy red wine vinegar the most in this dish and I always add extra vinegar, salt, and Dijon mustard to taste.

Sides: Delicious Homemade Orange Zest Kale (recipe from Livi @ allrecipes)

This recipe for kale was different but we liked it. The orange flavor is very pronounced and the overall dish is on the sweet side.


Shredded Beef Chuck Roast (recipe from Martha Stewart)

Drippy shredded beef sandwiches are so comforting at the end of a long day. I particularly love the addition of dried oregano and rosemary in this recipe. It gives it a bit of Italian flare. As always, plan ahead. Be sure to factor in extra cooking time. No one wants tough meat.

Sides: Roasted Beets + Chips with Guacamole

Best Guacamole (my favorite recipe)


Creamy Skillet Tortellini with Sweet Potato and Spinach (recipe from Casey Barber @ The Kitchn)

This is a great recipe for those nights when you just don’t feel like making dinner. With a heap of spinach and a cubed sweet potato, I feel less guilty about purchasing pre-made tortellini/ravioli. Fresh rosemary makes this dish taste (and smell) divine. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top and dig in.

Sides: Beet, Orange and Arugula Salad (recipe from Martha Rose Shulman @ The New York Times)

There are a million recipes out there for this type of salad. I loosely followed the above recipe using my leftover beets from Wednesday. I toasted almonds, instead of walnuts, and skipped the cilantro.


 Zucchini with Parmesan (recipe from Ina Garten @ Food Network)

Dinner tonight was leftover shredded beef sandwiches and zucchini with parmesan. I bought one of Ina’s cookbooks at a used bookstore and found this recipe dog eared by the previous owner with a note that simply read, “good!” Let me tell you. Previous owner was right. This is good!


Date Night at Cafe Alma! Bear ate leftovers with her Auntie.

(Nov 12th, 2017 – Nov 18th, 2017)