Well, in true KK fashion, things could NOT go smoothly. We started the morning with a non-working oven, but at 11am Mr. KK pulled through and replaced the lighter so we were back in business!
Did anyone else wake up at 5:13am and plan out the timing of the day? And then follow that up with timers set as reminders? No? Just me?
Welcome to Crazy Town, folks. Population: 1.
So once the oven was fixed we could get this day started! Not pictured below are the 1,000,000 cocktails I had.
My dad – MY DAD – made stuffed artichokes this year. They were delicious! He’s hired!
This year we once again decided to fry a turkey. Oh, except the pan we fry in had holes in it (which we discovered once Mr. KK put the oil in it). And we didn’t have another pan big enough to hold the oil and the turkey so we had to improvise. Broken-down fried turkey parts it is! And they were delicious!
We added a few new dishes to our repertoire this year:
One of the best things about fall – besides dry and crisp weather for amazing hair days – is the comfort food.
When the leaves start changing, so do my cravings. After six months of salad, I’m ready for warm comforting meals.
The 3 Best Soups and Chilis for Cold Weather
What constitutes a good chili can spark many debates: beans or no beans, thick or juicy, and – of course – spice level.
I have made many variations of chili over the years, many times never following a recipe and just adding what feels right to the pot. And guess what? No matter what you throw in, chili usually ends up tasting halfway decent.
Last year I came across this chili recipe. It is simple, doesn’t take all day to cook, and is really, really good.
1 pound 90% lean ground beef (NOTE: I use a package of meatloaf mix here, a mix of beef, pork and veal and it adds another layer of meaty flavor)
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and place it over medium-high heat for two minutes. Add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the ground beef to the pot. Break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the beef is browned, stirring occasionally.
Add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, tomato paste, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until well combined.
Add the broth, diced tomatoes (with their juice), drained beans, and tomato sauce. Stir well.
Bring the liquid to a low boil. Then, reduce the heat (low to medium-low) to gently simmer the chili, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Garnish with all of your favorite chili toppings! I tend to put out cheese, sliced fresh jalapenos, avocado and sour cream.
2. Meat Soup
With a sexy name like “meat soup”, how could you not want to try this recipe? This recipe is from Mr. KK’s family, and is a staple during the winter. This soup brings Mr. KK back to his childhood, sitting at his grandmothers kitchen table, and – later in life – at home with his parents on a Sunday afternoon. His grandmother used to make it on the stove, but it is just as delicious (and easier!) in the Instant Pot.
And, being a family recipe, there are ZERO measurements for anything! The best kind of recipes!
Carrots (I use about 4-5 good sized carrots, cut into discs or half moons uniform in size)
Onion (The original stovetop recipe used just one full onion peeled and added to the pot; I chop an onion for the Instant Pot recipe)
Celery (About 2-3 stalks, diced)
Beef shank (The meatier, the better. If it has a LOT of meat on it, you can just use one; if it has too little meat on it, use multiple)
Beef stock (I use unsalted, and you use enough to cover the ingredients; you could also use a mixture of beef stock and water if regular stock is too salty)
1 small can tomato sauce (an actual measurement from the original recipe!)
“Any seasoning you may want” (I will add salt because I use unsalted stock; you can also use other dried seasonings, however, I tend to skip them and just go with gold old kosher salt)
Put carrots, onion, celery in the Instant Pot.
Put your beef shank(s) on top of the veggies.
Add about 6-8 cups of liquid: either the beef stock or beef stock/water combo to cover the veggies and meat.
Add the can of tomato sauce.
Add your seasonings (just salt for me!).
Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.
Manually release steamer.
When it’s safe, open the lid of the pot and remove the beef shanks (be careful, they may fall apart a little bit).
Shred the meat from the shanks into bite sized pieces and put back into the Instant Pot.
Now, you can absolutely eat this soup just like this. However, being Italian (and never truly full), we add a little pasta to our soup for make it more of a meal. The preferred pasta for this soup is: Acini de Pepe, which are small little pearls of pasta. You can find it as most grocery stores or Italian food stores.
If you are using pasta, cook the pasta separately from the soup according to the package. When cooked, add the desired amount of pasta to a shallow bowl and ladle the meat soup over it.
I then add a TON of grated parmesan cheese on top, which brings a more salty and nutty flavor to the soup.
3. Ina Garten’s Italian White Beans and Escarole
Oh, Ina, how I love you. My girl crush is REAL.
My grandmother used to make escarole and beans (or, as we Italians pronounce it: sche-daul and beans). In her version, she put cut up pepperoni, which added a nice kick.
Ina’s version is meat free but full of flavor (likely from the 2 tons of cheese you put in). NOTE: this recipe is Ina Garten’s…I am not taking credit!
2 (15.5 ounce) cans white cannellini beans
1/2 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and pepper
1 large head escarole, leaves separated, trimmed, washed and spun dry
1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Drain the beans, rinse and drain again.
In large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat (I use my Le Creuset which works perfectly).
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant but not browned (SO important).
Add the chicken stock, the drained beans, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
With a potato masher or large spoon, mash half of the beans in the pot and simmer uncovered another 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, stack escarole leaves on top of each other and cut them crosswise into 3-inch-wide strips.
Add the greens to the pot, cover, and steam the greens over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender, stirring the greens into the beans about halfway through.
Off the heat, stir in the pecorino and parmesan cheeses, taste for seasonings and serve warm.
I can’t tell you how creamy, garlicky and delicious this dish is. It would go well with some crusty Italian bread for sure.
Potatoes are one of the most perfect foods on the planet.
They are so versatile: you can bake them, roast them, hasselback them, mash them, french fry them, hash brown them, and even turn the into pasta. Very few foods an claim this amazingness.
As much as I love potatoes, I don’t eat the as often as I would like. This short, pear-shaped body would likely morph into a pineapple if I got the fries instead of salad every time.
But everyone once and I while, I treat myself (and, indirectly, Mr. KK). Last night was one of those nights. I busted out the big guns and made Gorgonzola Twice Baked Potatoes.
Gorgonzola Twice Baked Potatoes Recipe
2 Russet baking potatoes Crumbled gorgonzola cheese (exact amount depends on your taste; I tend to use maybe 1/2 a cup or a little more) 2-3TBSP of sour cream Milk Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Wash and completely dry potatoes. Place them on a baking sheet and piece them with a knife (about 5 good pierces per potato)
Bake the potatoes in the oven until they are crispy on the outside and a paring knife glides in easily, about an hour
Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle them (reduce oven temp to 400 degrees)
Hold the warm potato in your palm, and using a knife, slide off a little oval flap of potato. This will be the opening you will use to scoop out the potato. I usually do one that’s about a few inched long and an inch or two wide. It should just be across the length of the top of the potato (see photo below)
Scoop out potato from both potatoes into a bowl. Mash with a potato masher to remove any lumps.
Add cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix slowly. Add milk as needed to loosen the mixture just a bit – it should still have a very thick consistency and hold together.
Put the stuffing back into the potato shells, place stuffed potatoes back on the baking sheet.*
Warm and slightly brown the tops of the potatoes in the over for about 10 minutes (or as long as you need to get the filling hot and the cheese a little melty).
*At this stage, you can wrap the potatoes in foil and refrigerate for a day and then bake the next day in the oven at 350 until the are hot, then increase to 400 to brown the tops a bit.
Are these good for you? Not likely. Are they delicious? YOU BET.
These are probably one of my favorite ways to enjoy a potato. Though roasted baby potatoes with oil, garlic and rosemary are a close second. And the french fries from our favorite beer bar. Oh, and gnocchi. Who am I kidding? I like ALL potatoes. Except scalloped potatoes, which I feel are that second cousin of the potato that no one wants to invite to family reunions.
Speaking of adoring potatoes, my child doesn’t like mashed potatoes. Let me repeat that: my child does not like mashed potatoes. I’m not quite sure how this relationship is going to turn out, to be honest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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”)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Half sour pickles. Pickles make everything better.
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.
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.
Steak. A thick-cut rib eye, crispy on the outside, medium rare on the inside. Blue cheese butter on top? Well, if you insist.
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…