Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Autumn Chili

Aside from having to chop onions at 9am, I can't think of a downside to using my Crock Pot.  I love being able to get dinner ready early in the day, before things get crazy.  I love the smells that fill my house all day as the meal simmers away.  And I love the way the flavors infuse into one another after hours of cooking.

And what's one of the most common Crock Pot recipes? You guessed it...CHILI! I have several good recipes for Chili, but one of my favorites (and by far, my husbands top pick) is Autumn Chili.  This chili combines all my favorite flavors of fall like butternut squash and apples with some traditional chili ingredients (onions and black beans) and some nontraditional (carrots and coconut milk).  And by using ground turkey instead of beef, this recipe get's onto my "healthy meal" list.

Autumn Chili (adapted from Crock-pot.com)

1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups apples, diced
2 cups butternut squash, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey, cooked and drained
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
10 ounces chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

Combine all ingredients in Crock-Pot.  Cook on low for 8 hours. If desired, open lid for the last 45 minutes to thicken.

I love to serve this with just a dollop of sour cream and a side of corn bread for a delicious fall meal!!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup!

Thanksgiving is on the way and Pinterest is lighting up with recipe ideas! Whether you go the traditional route or prefer to branch out and try exciting new recipes, most everyone is planning their Thanksgiving menu. Here are my top 10 recipes for a delicious Thanksgiving feast. From appetizers to drinks to desserts, these recipes are bound to make your family and friends thankful for you!!

1. Apple, Brie, and Honey Bruschetta
Let’s face it, everyone gets the munchies while they wait for the turkey to cook. So put out this delicious appetizer to keep them happy until dinnertime!

Photo credit: The Craving Chronicles, Theresa Sullivan

2. Ginger Pear Cranberry Sauce
Break away from the jellied cranberry sauce in a can with this made-from-scratch version.  The addition of the ginger and pear are sure to add a WOW factor to this often overlooked side dish!

3. Yeast Rolls
Martha does it again with these simple, yet scrumptious rolls.  Don’t let the yeast in this recipe scare you. Baking with yeast is quite simple!

4. Apple Cranberry Stuffing
Spruce up your stuffing with the addition of these two quintessential autumn flavors!

5. Salt-and-pepper roasted turkey
It seems like such a simple concept.  These two simple ingredients will add amazing flavor to your tables main dish!

6. Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
I just love the look of these individualized potatoes!  Plus, who can pass on brown sugar AND marshmallows??

7. Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
This recipe takes mashed potatoes and kicks them up a notch by adding brown butter. Adding brown butter to your standard mashed potato recipe will give those spuds a delicious nutty flavor.

8. Mini pumpkin cheesecakes with gingersnap crust
These little cheesecakes are adorable! After a big dinner like a Thanksgiving feast, I just love the idea of a small, bite-sized dessert.  

9. Sauteed green beans with bacon
Let’s face it, bacon makes everything better! This is a simple side of sauteed green beans topped with crisp bacon and green onions.

10. Spiced pomegranate apple cider
Imagine curling up on the sofa (after the tryptophan has kicked in!) with this warm beverage in your hands. With apple cider, cloves, and cinnamon, this drink is like fall in a cup!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Month of Elf On The Shelf

As December draws near, it's finally time to focus on Christmas! While some people put out their Christmas decorations the day after Halloween, we tend to wait until December 1st to haul out the holly.  And one tradition we start on December 1st is our Elf on the Shelf.
Our Elf, Ralf, came to visit us for the first time last Christmas.  My husband was skeptical (as he is with most overly commercial aspects of Christmas).  But when we saw how much fun the kids had with it, it was impossible not to love this new tradition.  Here's how our first Christmas season with Ralf went:

 Day 1: Ralf made his first appearance on our fireplace mantle

Day 2: Ralf spent the day hanging out in our Christmas tree (the kids had fun trying to find him that morning!)

Day 3: Ralf got artistic!

Day 4:  Ralf made a mess trying to brush his teeth

Day 5:  We found out that Ralf has a bit of a sweet tooth!

Day 6: Ralf gave us all Rudolph noses

Day 7:  Ralf took Baby Doll for a romantic picnic...so sweet!

Day 8: Ralf knew how hard it was to get into the Christmas spirit when it was 75 degrees outside, so he brought us some snow! 

Day 9: We found Ralf in the fridge and he had turned the milk green

Day 10: Ralf was jealous of our craft time and decided to make some paper snowflakes of his own

Day 11: We woke up to find Ralf enjoying a little marshmallow bubble bath!

Day 12: Ralf had a little story time with the stuffed animals

Day 13: It's Super Ralf! We found Ralf hanging from the ceiling fan with a cape!

Day 14: Even elves need to unwind...Ralf likes to do so with a little Super Mario Bros.

Day 15: Ralf made himself a little hot cocoa

Day 16: Ralf really got into the decorations

Day 17: Ralf barricaded us in our bedroom 

Day 18: Ralf paid a visit to the manger...and he even brought a gift for the baby Jesus

Day 19: Looks like Ralf went for a little joy-ride while we were all asleep

Day 20:  VANDAL!! Ralf TP'd our tree!!

Day 21: Ralf left a note on the kid's bathroom mirror

Day 22: We found Ralf just hanging out in our son's stocking

Day 23:  Ralf was up all night knitting himself a scarf

Day 24: Ralf brought a gift for the kids to open on Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve we said good-bye to our new elf friend.  The kids are so excited for him to return this holiday season! Looks like mom needs to get cracking to find new mischief for our Ralf to get into! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup...just in time for fall!

My family recently moved from North Texas to Northern Colorado.  Having lived in Texas for the past 6 years, I forgot how much I LOVE Fall!  You see, in Texas, fall lasts for about 5 hours.  Here and there you might see a tree change color.  But if you blink, you’ll miss it and before you know it the trees have all shed their leaves.  And the temperature goes from mid-80s one day to 40s the next and you’re stuck with that until Spring.

But now that we are in Colorado, I’m remembering how wonderful Fall is! The cool, crisp air.  The clear blue skies.  And the COLORS!!! I partial to the bright red trees but my husband loves the yellow leaves.  And I swear, every time I see a pile of leaves I get the child-like desire to jump into it!

But you know what I love best about Fall? The food! Chili, pumpkin everything, and soup! One of our favorite fall recipes is for a delicious butternut squash soup.  My husband and I came across this recipe several years ago around Thanksgiving. We made it that year for the annual feast and our combined families looked at us like we were crazy (soup was not a dish that usually graced our Thanksgiving table). But ever since it has been a staple in our Fall meal rotation.

This soup combines butternut squash with ginger and coconut milk for a unique, creamy taste.

Start by roasting the squash.  Simply cut it lengthwise and cover with butter, salt and pepper. 

Stick it in a 375 degree oven for about an hour.  Your house will smell amazing! After an hour, take the squash out and allow it to cool a bit.

Once the squash is cooled, it should be peeled, cubed and slightly mashed. 

Now you can begin making the actual soup!  Start by melting the butter in a large stock pot. 

Once the butter is melted, add the chopped onion, green onion, and grated ginger.  Allow these to cook until the onion is transparent.

Next, add the coconut milk, vegetable stock and mashed up squash.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, you’ll want to blend the soup to a rich, creamy texture.  We like to use a hand immersion blender (they are SO handy for making soups!) but if you don’t have one of these, you can do small batches in your blender.

Once the soup is blended and there are no chunks left, you are done!

This soup will make the perfect addition to any holiday meal, but it’s also ideal for those cool, fall and winter days.  I love keeping a container in the fridge at all times for an easy, warm you up lunch!  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup

2.5 pounds butternut squash, roasted, cubed and slightly mashed

4 tbl butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
3 tbl fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 can coconut milk (unsweetened)
6 cups vegetable stock

1.  Melt butter in a large stock pot

2. Add onions and ginger and cook until the yellow onions are transparent
3. Add squash, coconut milk and vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes
4.  Blend either small amounts in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth and free of any chunks
5. Salt and pepper to taste