Well, I (sort of) made it: 30 posts in 30 days (well, more like 27 posts in 30 days, but who’s counting???)
So on this very last day, I leave you with a summary of the month, that didn’t make the blog.
The Elf Is Back on the Shelf
He arrived the Sunday after Thanksgiving and has already been into lots of mischief. I have a love/hate relationship with this Elf. I love being creative and making him do fun things every day, however, I hate when my “Move Elf” alarm goes off every night (and occasionally after I’ve fallen asleep on the couch!). One BIG benefit of the Elf is that Little Mister pops out of bed each morning to look for him (instead of waxing on each morning for 20 minutes how it’s not fair that he has to get up and go to school), and is dressed, fed, and teeth brushed 20 minutes before we need to leave for school.
I leave with this Elf Inspo from years past (our elf was masked in 2020 because, well, COVID):
We Decorated for Christmas
In lieu of sharing my entire living room Winter Wonderland, I leave you with one of my favorite nooks: My Ode to Boston.
I Have Completely Abandoned Any Thoughts of Eating Healthy
Who wants salad when it gets cold? Not this girl. And who can stay on track with so many reasons to have a cocktail, the multitude of cheeseboards I’ll encounter, and the ease of ordering take out instead of cooking because truly, online shopping is exhausting.
This is my favorite fried chicken sandwich from Mikro Depot, who also happens to have the very best french fries in the universe.
We Have Officially Become a White Board Family
I never imagined I’d succumb to the white board, let alone hang it on my refrigerator; but, here we are. Even with one kid and barely any type of sports or extra curricular activities, our white board is filled with appointments, reminders to return library books, and notes when we are eating the school lunch (LOVE the days I don’t have to make a lunch). My favorite part of the white board is when it’s gleaming – all empty and clean – and awaiting it’s monthly mark up.
I’m the Note in the Lunchbox Mom
It’s me, the Mom putting notes in his lunchbox or snack bag every day. Sometimes I wish him a good day, sometimes I draw a silly picture, and other times, I make Mom jokes:
I Tried to Enjoy the Small Things
Whether it was reading an extra book in bed with Little Mister (and not writing a blog post for the night), or keeping the dogs outside a little extra on the morning walk to enjoy the sunrise, I tried to be present and in the moment. I think that’s my New Year’s resolution this year: be more present. Make more time for what’s important. And to clean out the hall closet.
If you read even one of these posts this month, I hope you laughed a little, found a new favorite thing for yourself, or maybe tried a new recipe. Cheers to the end of blog month – and best wishes for a happy holiday season!
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.
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.