cooking, food, NaBloPoMo, recipe

Cozy Meals for a Crazy Year

Is it just me, or is it hard to eat healthy when the weather cools down? I don’t know about you, but when it’s 25 degrees outside, I find it difficult to eat a salad.

Cooler temps call for warm, comforting meals. And in year when we’ve been dressing for comfort, there’s not reason we shouldn’t be eating for comfort, too.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite comfort food recipes for the upcoming winter season.

KK’s Top 5 Comfort Foods

Ina’s Penne Vodka

I’ve shared this recipe before by Ina Garten, but it’s worth sharing again. This pasta is rich and creamy – with a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes – and hard to eat just one serving. You will overeat this pasta, but it will be worth it.

Get the recipe here.

Beef, Tomato and Acini de Pepe Soup

Photo from skinnytaste.com

There are days when I just crave a big bowl of steaming, satisfying soup. I found this recipe in a Skinnytaste cookbook I bought after I received my Instant Pot. The meat and pasta make it hearty, and the half pound of parmesan cheese I put on top makes it’s kk-worthy.

Get the recipe here.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Image courtesy of Food Network.

I know it’s bad for you, but it’s SO SO SO good. Tyler Florence’s version of spaghetti carbonara is a lighter version, the “sauce” coming from the egg and the pasta water. It is velvety and creamy and perfect on a cold night with a glass of red wine. Sometimes, when I’m feeling crazy, I’ll make this recipe with bucatini.

Get the recipe here.

Sous Vide Ribeye

When I think of winter date night’s in, I immediately picture a juicy ribeye steak, onion rings and roasted broccolini and a full bodied cabernet. When it’s too cold to go outside and grill, I’ll prepare the steaks with the sous vide, and then sear them in a hot cast iron skillet with butter until there’s a crust. There is no recipe here. I simply vacuum seal the steaks in a bag with fresh herbs, salt and pepper and garlic, then sous vide them until the perfect medium rare. I then heat a cast iron pan until it’s screaming hot and I sear the steaks on each side for no more than a minute or two, and finish by basting with melted butter. OMG, heaven.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich

I know fried chicken seems like a summertime dinner, enjoyed outside on a picnic table with a checkered tablecloth, but if you have the means to fry inside, fried chicken is one of those foods that just hits the spot and makes you feel good all over.

This recipe for fried chicken sandwiches is my girl crush Ina’s. And it was delicious. Don’t skimp on the pickles; I used homemade bread and butter quick pickles I made earlier in the day. Goes wonderfully with a hoppy IPA.

Get the recipe here.

Hopefully this provided some much-needed comfort food inspiration because honestly, vegetables aren’t cutting it right now.

cooking, Entertaining, food, NaBloPoMo, recipe

The Only Appetizer Recipe You’ll Need

Mr. KK and I have always been big fans of visiting Portland, Maine. Aside from the fact that it reminds us a bit of Boston with it’s cobblestone ankle-breaking sidewalks and amazing restaurants (can you say lobstah rolls?), but the beer scene is top notch.

Trips to Portland became a little harder when the Little Mister came along, and as much as we were raising a bar baby, it was getting hard to ignore the stink eye we’d get from the hipsters.

One summer we rented a beach house for the three of us in South Portland, a 10-minute drive over the bridge. We were just close enough to enjoy an afternoon in our favorite city, with the luxury of being walking distance to a great little beach. Our house was conveniently located next to a Scratch Baking Company, a bakery that had somewhat of a cult following. Every morning at 6am people would start lining up waiting for the bakery to open, just to get their hands on their famous bagels. With the line of people came chit chat, so every morning we were up at the crack of dawn listening to everyone in line.

Now, having a husband with a sweet tooth and a toddler who loved all things cake and cookie, being next to the bakery was a very convenient spot for us. I could literally roll out of bed, walk out the front door, and be in line in my pajamas. Not being much a bagel person myself, they had a coffee cake that was to die for.

My favorite item from this bakery, however, was not a baked good at all. Tucked into the cooler with the cream cheese were containers of homemade pimento cheese spread.

Now, if you’re from the south, you are well aware of how life-changing pimento cheese is. If you don’t know what pimento cheese spread is, well, I’m sorry. You’ve barely enjoyed life up until this point.

First off, it’s made with cheese. If you’re a cheese whore like I am, that should be enough of a selling point. Second, it’s cheese mixed with cream cheese. (I mean, COME ON.) But perhaps the best selling point, is that you can eat it on almost anything. Crackers? Sure. Pita chips? My favorite. As a grilled cheese. Woah. Spread on a chicken cutlet on a roll? Shut the front door.

The day I discovered the pimento cheese spread at Scratch Baking Company, my entire vacation changed. I bought a container every single day, and ate the entire thing throughout the day. I had dreams about this pimento cheese. We went back to South Portland a second summer and the first thing I did was go to this bakery and secure pimento cheese for the week.

But you don’t have to live in the south or visit South Portland in order to enjoy pimento cheese. In fact, I have made pimento cheese spread many times (is there anything better to enjoy at a Kentucky Derby Party?). However, I have discovered the best of the best pimento cheese recipe; the créme de le cream cheese, if you will.

And who other to give us this amazing recipe than my girl crush: Ina Garten.

In her latest cookbook Modern Comfort Food, Ina shares her take on this amazing appetizer. In fact, once you make this and serve it, you’ll never need another appetizer recipe again.

Ina’s Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread

Recipe and photos courtesy of Ina Garten.

Click here for the recipe and a video.

Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup mayonnaise 
1 1/2 tsp granulated onion (not onion powder)
2 large garlic gloves
1 teaspoon celery seed 
Kosher salt
3/4 cup pickled jalapenos, drained and chopped 
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (3 to 4 scallions)
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers, drained (4 ounces)
4 cups shredded sharp while cheddar (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon Sriracha

Crackers and/or crudités for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, garlic, celery seed and 1/2 tsp salt with a wooden spoon. Add the pickled jalapenos, scallions and red peppers and grated Cheddar. Add the Sriracha and combine. Taste for seasonings and serve with crackers, corn chips or crudités. (Or with my favorite: pita chips).

I highly recommend you make a double batch: one batch for your guests, and the other to hide in the back of your fridge so you can shame it any time no one is looking.

You’re welcome.

food, Kids will be kids, NaBloPoMo, parenting

We Are Raising a Carb-a-holic

When our Little Mister was younger, he would eat so many different foods. Then, slowly, he started to have an opinion (the nerve!) and decide what he did and didn’t like. Gone were the days he would happily mash salmon and potatoes in his mouth, or ask to try our shrimp or eat puréed beef stew. Now, foods he ate just two days earlier were no longer in his repertoire.

One day, he quit chicken nuggets cold turkey. What 5 year old does that? Chicken nuggets is a food group for kids under 10.

But what does the Little Mister love? CARBS. If my child could eat only white food for the rest of his life, he’d be happy. (I mean, I get it – I wish I could exist on cheese and bread, too. But there are things called balanced diets and BMI that we have to worry about).

At our recent 6 year old check up, the doctor asked Little Mister if he was eating fruits and vegetables. “Yes,” he nodded solemnly. Liar! Besides broccoli, we are anti-vegetable (tomatoes are a fruit! and corn is not a vegetable!).

Dinnertime is becoming harder and harder. Though I think I’m more bothered with Little Mister eating the same thing every night than he is. Honestly, he’d the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I let him. (Why am I not letting him? Why am I driving myself crazy???)

Part of the reason it bugs me that my child won’t eat (or try) anything is that I actually cook dinners each night. Mr. KK and I eat a pretty good meal each night, the likes of which are wasted on our child. So each night, I cook 2 meals; or, rather, I cook one meal and one additional carbohydrate.

What is on the 6 Year Old Menu

Here is what Little Mister has deemed worthy of eating:

• Grilled cheese
• Pizza (he used to ask for spinach on his pizza, or bacon and olive, now it’s just plain cheese)
• Pasta (plain, no butter or cheese. sometimes he’ll concede to sauce if he’s feeling daring)
• Pancakes (shaped like snowmen or dogs; a good go-to when we’ve gone through the usual dinner rotation)
• Broccoli (I’m proud to type this, he has not yet tired of broccoli, even though it’s the only vegetable he’ll eat so I give it to him every. single. night.)
• Strawberries
• Apples
• Any type of chip (potato, Dorito, Cheeto, you name it, my kid will house it)
• Dessert (he is an equal opportunity dessert eater)

Little Mister is a bonafide snacker. Five minutes after he finishes a meal, he wants a snack. And after his snack, he needs another snack. His snacks have snacks! We are trying to teach him how to balance his snacks. He knows enough by this time, to ask specifically, “Do I have have to have a snack that’s a fruit now?” Yes, yes you do! Though he tries to be sneaky with, “Fruits snacks are fruit. It’s in the name.” Nice try, kiddo.

I don’t imagine the days of me making 2 meals each night will end soon, because I’m pretty sure I’m not going to start eating pancakes and dry pasta for dinner. And even Little Mister’s doctor said, “You need to determine what’s too much? It is worth stressing over now, knowing he’s likely not going to go to college only eating 10 things?” And no, it’s not. He’s healthy and growing (like a week!) so he’d getting nutrition. And honestly, there are other places in my life that I can stress over rather than having to make a grilled cheese sandwich 3 times a week.

food, Kids will be kids

Why is our 5 year old such a picky eater?

It seems like every day we are lamenting another food that our Little Mister declares he no longer will eat that we must bid adieu to.

About a month ago, he let us know that he no longer liked chicken nuggets. CHICKEN NUGGETS, people! The main food group of the under 10 set (and some adults, let’s be honest). We are no longer keeping these dino-shaped jewels in our home.

Don’t get me wrong, our Little Mister still eats a bunch of foods – and enough of them, no issues there – it’s just that our dinner options are rapidly shrinking.

I will admit that I am part of the problem. I have a traditional sense of what “dinner” should be. I grew up in a house where dinner was a warm meal that consisted of a protein, a starch and a vegetable. And while we may have had the same dinners week after week, we ate a different dinner each night within a week. I never had pork chops two days in a row.

But, perhaps I need to think of  “dinner” as food in my 5 year old’s stomach. If he wants to eat the same thing 3 nights in a row, who am I to say no? He’s still eating, right? And if I have to accept that a PBJ sandwich is “dinner” – even if it was also lunch – then so be it.

Foods our 5 year old will no longer eat

Things we used to eat as a 3 year old that we no longer eat as a 5 year old:

  • Butternut squash (“Blecch!”)
  • Sweet potatoes ((spits them out))
  • String beans (“too stringy”)
  • Zucchini (“Yuck”)
  • Salmon (“I don’t like it.”)
  • Any meat of any kind ((weird chewing face until he lets it fall off his tongue into the plate))
  • Meatballs and meatloaf (“Too yucky”)
  • Macaroni and cheese ((no reason given))
  • Scrambled eggs (“Too eggy”)

Things our 5 year old WILL eat for dinner:

  • Noodles (aka: spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese; though he thinks he doesn’t like butter and doesn’t know I put in the noddles)
  • Chicken soup (but not from a can; only SOME homemade versions and the one the produce store near us makes)
  • Pizza
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Pancakes
  • BLTs (well, B and T, hold the L)
  • Hot dogs (super healthy, awesome)
  • Tacos (don’t get excited here, I introduced tacos as crispy taco shells filled with 3 ingredients I know he likes: shredded cheese, tomatoes and black olives. Baby steps)
  • Cheese and crackers

We have a carb-loving kid (maybe we all do!) and while I don’t want him to eat noodles 5 days a week (I know what eating pasta 5 days in a row would do to my body!), it just may have to be. And I’ll continue to cook 2 different dinners (except apparently tacos, which we can all enjoy) until he’s 18, give or take.

food, NaBloPoMo

10 foods I could eat forever.

I love to eat.

In fact, most of my decisions and plans revolve around food. I have been known to plan an entire vacation around how many restaurants we could eat at during our stay.

I always have food on the brain. When I worked in Boston many moons ago, we would all start talking about lunch around 10am. What should we have? Where would we go? Sebastian’s for salads? Big Al’s for chicken salad sandwiches? Chacarero for those flat sandwiches that were so good? And then halfway through the afternoon, I’d start thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner.

Fast forward a bunch of years, and not much has changed. I still think about what my next meal is going to be, or try and schedule my days around meal times. There is nothing worse than being trapped somewhere during lunchtime without having any access to food. I do my best to avoid hairy situations like this.

Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 10.02.52 PM

Thanks, someecards for capturing it so well.

It goes without saying that the main reason I work out is so that I can still eat and drink whatever I want. (Though that is starting to feel like a losing battle, but I’m trying!) I don’t like to diet, because I hate the thought of giving up things I enjoy eating. (And I’m sorry, spaghetti squash, but you’re just NOT a substitute for real spaghetti. No matter how much parmesan I use.)

Because there are simply some things that I will never stop eating. Even if the doctor suggests I stay away from my favorites, I may try and bargain with him.

10 foods I could eat for the rest of my life.

I tried to list out singular foods – not meals – that I could not live without.

  1. Pimento cheese. If you’ve never had pimento cheese, I suggest you wiggle your way out from under the rock you’ve been living and join the party. Because pimento cheese is the most amazing creation since almost everything. And it’s versatile! While I enjoy eating it cold and straight up on crackers (pita chips, specifically), it’s also delicious warm on baguette slices, spread on a chicken cutlet sandwich, and as a topping on a burger.
  2. Cheese. (I’m noticing a theme here). If I had to pick one specific kind, I’d have to say super sharp aged cheddar. Or the creamy cow’s milk deliciousness of Fromager d’Affinois. Third runner up: Manchego.
  3. Avocados (and, in turn, guacamole). If you put guacamole in front of me, I will eat entire bowl, unapologetically. Bonus points for blue tortilla chips.
  4. Chicken salad. There are many chicken salads out there that should be ashamed of themselves (cranberries do not belong in chicken salad. Neither do grapes). Chicken, mayonnaise, spices and maybe a little celery if you’re feeling frisky, and you have the perfect chicken salad. Pair it with Carr’s water crackers and it’s a meal.
  5. Onion dip (and Ruffles potato chips). Can’t. Stop. Won’t. Stop.
  6. Half sour pickles. Pickles make everything better.
  7. Red wine. Wine is a food group, right? As much as I love beer, there’s something about having a glass of plum-colored greatness after a long day, or on a cold evening, or with an Italian meal.
  8. Ice cream. It just makes everything better. I could never eat a cookie, cake or pastry again and I’d be ok with it. As long as I could have a bowl of ice cream. Peanut butter or Oreo, please.
  9. Steak. A thick-cut rib eye, crispy on the outside, medium rare on the inside. Blue cheese butter on top? Well, if you insist.
  10. Roasted potatoes. They need to be made exactly like my grandmother’s – crispy outside and warm and soft inside. Tossed with olive oil, garlic salt, regular salt and pepper. They’re so good they don’t need ketchup.

If you thought there’d be fruit or something healthy on the list, forget it! The whole point of the favorite foods list is that the items are SO GOOD you can’t imagine living without ever enjoying one of them again.

Now, if we’re talking meals that I could eat for the rest of my life, that’s a whole different story. Then we’re talking about the kk special pizza, tacos, penne vodka…