Only Two Weeks Until Thanksgiving!

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Hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is just two weeks away! This year, I started my holiday planning a lot later than intended. In fact, I haven’t even given any thought to what size turkey I’ll be roasting. Until last night, I didn’t even know whether or not we would have any guests joining us! The husband works on Thanksgiving Eve and into the following morning, so we planned on having dinner in our home. I expected my in-laws to join us that day, since we usually alternate the holiday between John’s family and mine. Last night, however, I found out they have other plans, so I’ll be making Thanksgiving dinner for me and my boys.

Since I’ll only be cooking for us three, the menu is small, but definitely not lacking! For Thanksgiving, I love to prepare a big meal and be left with plenty of leftovers. Transforming leftovers into a deliciously different dish is almost as fun as planning for the holiday itself. I know to some, that may sound utterly insane. Many people can’t wait to get the holidays over with and completely loathe spending time in the kitchen. I am definitely not one of those people! Although the madness can sometimes be overwhelming, I truly enjoy cooking for my family.

In my family, Thanksgiving dinner is eaten early, usually around one or two o’clock in the afternoon. This year’s menu will still include appetizers, just so my boys can have something to munch on while the turkey roasts. Here’s what I have planned for this Thanksgiving:

Hor D’Oeuvres:
Stuffed Mushrooms
Spinach Artichoke Dip (a request from the hubby!)

Main Course:
Roast Turkey with Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing
Green Bean and Mushroom Saute

Bread Basket:
Dinner Rolls

Pecan Pie with Whiskey Maple Cream Sauce

Have you started planning for Turkey Day? What’s on your menu?

Menu Plan Monday ~ November 7th

It’s that time of year — light jackets have been swapped for down parkas and puffy coats, local restaurants have added hearty soups and stews to their menus, store windows are decorated for the holidays…and cold viruses are going around like the plague. Logan spent nearly a week battling a persistent fever that appeared with a nasty case of Strep throat. A few days ago, my husband got sick, too. Although he isn’t as ill as Logan was, he’s still pretty miserable. I spent the weekend chewing Vitamin C tablets and praying I didn’t get sick, too :-/

Sunday’s steak dinner was swapped out for soup, since Johnny is still feeling pretty miserable. I must be feeling very soup-y this week, because I have two of them on the menu, a creamy butternut squash soup and a hearty sausage and kale. With this week’s temperatures rising to only the mid 50’s, tis the season for something warm in my tummy!

Here’s what’s on the menu for this week:

Monday: Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Tuesday: Steak with Onions, White Rice, Pink Beans, Avocado Salad
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Potato and Onion Pierogies with Sausage, Side Salad
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: White Bean, Sausage and Kale Soup, Roman Bread
Sunday: Roasted Chicken with Ratatouille

What’s on your menu this week?

Menu Plan Monday ~ October 31st ~ Happy Halloween!

Those of you in the Northeast know we got slammed with a snowstorm on Saturday, leaving nearly 3 million people without power. October snowfall is rare in this region. We’re still very much in the middle of autumn and many of the trees are still sporting their foliage. The weight of the snow on the leaves was too much for many trees to bear. While driving to our local diner on Sunday morning, we spotted numerous trees leaning over from the weight of the snow. Branches littered the streets, blocking many of the side roads and causing traffic delays. We spent the entire weekend without cable, internet or cellular phone service. Luckily, our power did not go out. We heard stories from several local business owners and employees, who had to camp out in their shops because they lost power in their homes or could not make the drive up the narrow, winding roads of Litchfield County. This weekend was definitely an adventure for many. If this is any indication of the winter ahead, we’re in for a rough one!

The fridge is chock full of leftovers, so tonight we’ll be eating those up. Last week’s gnocchi got bumped up to this week and I’m looking forward to the garlic bread that will accompany it!  Here’s what’s on the menu for this week:

Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Bacon and Cheese Sliders, Homemade Sweet Potato Chips, Side Salad
Wednesday: Gnocchi in Marinara Sauce, Garlic Bread with Cheese, Green Salad
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Arroz con Pollo y Longaniza (Rice with Chicken and Longaniza), Black Beans, Tostones (Fried Plantains)
Sunday: Steak Au Poivre, Crash Hot Potatoes, Buttered Green Beans

What’s on your menu this week?


Menu Plan Monday ~ October 24th

Thanks to a super crazy weekend, I totally flaked on my menu plan and Monday post! My week was filled with the usual work, errands, household chores and cooking. On Sunday, we celebrated Logan’s fourth birthday with a big party. We had a great turnout and the party was a success! Logan was so excited to see all his classmates and celebrate with them. Thanks to everyone who came out and joined us for such a special day!

This week’s menu plan is going to be a simple one. Logan is feeling under the weather today and I have a feeling it’s going to be several days until he’s back to his regular self. Between taking care of my little boy and trying to recover this house from the toy tornado that just hit, I want to keep kitchen time to a minimum.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

Monday: Leftover pizza from the party
Tuesday: Roasted Pork Shoulder with Potatoes, Side Salad
Wednesday: Breaded Chicken Cutlets, White Rice, Pink Beans, Tomato and Avocado Salad
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Gnocchi in Marinara Sauce, Garlic Bread, Side Salad
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Chicken and Dumplings, Green Salad

What’s on your menu this week?

Menu Plan Monday ~ October 17th ~ Happy Birthday Logan!

Four years ago, at this precise moment, I was being admitted into our local hospital, preparing for the arrival of my beautiful baby boy. After more than six hours of active labor, it became apparent Logan was not going to take the easy way out and a cesarean had to be performed. My little guy had turned his head and was stuck in the birth canal. At the time, John and I had no idea I was about to give birth to a baby boy. We ignored the protests of family members and decided we did not want to know the sex of our baby. Now that Logan has developed such a strong character and personality, I look back on that day and am convinced that he purposely wedged himself in me and stubbornly refused to come out! The memories of that day bring me great joy, as well as some sadness. I can hardly believe my little boy turns four today. Part of me wants him to remain a baby forever, so I can hold him and keep him safe for all eternity. The other half, my more logical side, knows this is impossible. Logan has to grow up eventually. For now, though, I’ll take great happiness in knowing he’s still my little boy. Happy birthday, Logan!

Here’s what’s on this week’s menu:

Monday: Cheese Pizza (at the request of the birthday boy!)
Tuesday: Leftovers from the weekend
Wednesday: Smoked Mozzarella and Pepper Ravioli, Side Salad
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: White Rice, Pink Beans, Fried Pork Chops, Avocado and Tomato Salad
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Logan’s Birthday Party!

What’s on your menu this week?

Menu Plan Monday ~ October 10th

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend. I know I sure did! Friday evening was spent celebrating my best friend’s birthday, in the form of a masquerade party. It truly was a fun and well planned event. On Saturday, my boys and I spent the day at home, doing some light cleaning and lounging around. Yesterday was an absolute gorgeous day! We attended a baby shower for some friends that live nearby and got to enjoy their backyard and massive trampoline. Logan was definitely in his glory!

The unusually warm weather we’ve been having will stick around for only a few more days. I’m hoping to get the opportunity to go apple and pumpkin picking at one of the many farms here in Western Connecticut. So far, I’ve narrowed it down to Castle Hill Farm in Newtown, Blue Jay Orchards in Bethel or March Farm in Bethlehem. I’ll let you know which one we choose and follow up with some pics!

Here’s this week’s menu:

Monday: Leftovers from the weekend
Tuesday: Roasted Eggplant with Quinoa
Wednesday: Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Red Lentil Curry with Brown Basmati Rice
Saturday: Spicy Chicken Soup, Side Salad
Sunday: Roasted Turkey with Truffle Butter, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Green Bean and Mushroom Saute

What’s on your menu this week?

Spicy Chicken Soup

I have a confession to make…I don’t like chicken soup. I find it dull and a bit depressing. There, I said it. Sometimes I feel a bit strange admitting I’m not a fan of chicken soup. People look at me strangely, give me that what’s wrong with you? glance. My husband, on the other hand, loves it. Homemade, from a can, in a restaurant, with noodles, with rice — he’ll eat them all. Recently, I decided to challenge myself and try to create a chicken soup we both could enjoy. Not an easy feat, I know. First, I knew that it had to be spicy. John’s family is from Mexico, and he definitely loves heat. I wanted to create layers of bold, rich flavor. Using ancho chiles, onions, fresh corn, tomatoes and shredded chicken thighs, I was able to do just that. One spoonful of this soup and I knew I created a keeper. When John tasted it, he thoroughly agreed. This soup is perfect for chilly days like the ones we have now, when you want to warm your body from the inside out.

Spicy Chicken Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings

What You’ll Need:

3 lbs chicken thighs, poached, skin removed and shredded
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 ears of fresh corn, kernels removed
1 large onion, chopped
1 serrano pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large ancho chiles, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, seeded, stemmed and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-28 oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 handfuls cilantro, roughly chopped
2 limes
avocado, sliced
sour cream, for garnish

In a large pot, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Saute the corn kernels for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic and serrano pepper. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and smoked paprika. Let saute for an additional 5 minutes.

In a small food processor, puree the ancho chile with some of the chicken stock until smooth. Add the ancho, tomatoes and remainder of the chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 10 minutes, allowing flavors to combine.

Using an immersion blender, puree about half of the soup. The goal is to thicken it just a bit, but still have some pieces of onion, tomato and corn throughout. Add the shredded chicken and let simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the juice of one lime and mix in half of the chopped cilantro. Ladle the soup into bowls. Place a few slices of avocado on top, then add a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle with cilantro, then squeeze some fresh lime over everything. Enjoy!

Menu Plan Monday ~ October 3rd

This past weekend, barely anything went as planned. On Thursday morning, I woke up with what felt like a bad case of allergies. As the day went on, it became clear that I had come down with a nasty cold. By Friday, I could barely stand for more than a few minutes at a time, so cooking dinner was out of the question. My stuffed peppers got pushed off the Friday menu and we got take-out instead. Saturday, I woke up feeling significantly better than I had the day before, with tons of energy to boot. Unfortunately, the weather was gloomy and rain prevented us from heading out to The Big E. I spent the day puttering around the house, packing away our summer clothes and making room in the closets for our warmer attire. We ended the weekend by taking a trip to the in-law’s to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday.

I plan to keep things simple this week. I’d love to start writing down menu ideas for Thanksgiving and testing out holiday recipes. The weather has certainly cooled down enough for me to handle the heat in the kitchen.

Here’s what’s on this week’s menu:

Monday: Leftovers from the weekend
Tuesday: Stuffed Green Peppers, Side Salad
Wednesday: Salmon over Lentils, Sauteed Green Beans
Thursday: Roast Beef Sandwiches with Horseradish Sauce, Vegetable Chips
Friday: Lemon Chicken Breasts, Quinoa Pilaf
Saturday: Heading to the Garlic Festival, maybe we’ll have dinner out. If not, leftovers from the night before.
Sunday: Going to a baby shower!

What’s on your menu this week?

Panko Covered Rosemary-Garlic Chicken Legs

Recently, a friend asked for ideas on what to do with panko, a type of breadcrumb used in Japanese cuisine. Panko has become increasingly popular throughout the years, working its way from specialty stores and into local supermarkets and grocery stores. It’s larger than traditional breadcrumbs and has a crispier, airier texture. After passing it several times in her neighborhood supermarket, my friend decided to buy it and give it a try. She called me a few days later, unable to come up with a creative way to use it. I promptly gave her the recipe for crispy, panko covered rosemary-garlic drumsticks. These juicy, crispy legs don’t disappoint.

The legs are my absolute favorite part of a chicken. Even as a little girl, I had a preference for dark meat. I find it to be so much juicier and flavorful than the rest of the chicken. White meat cooks a lot quicker and can dry out if overcooked by even a few minutes. I usually substitute chicken thighs or drumsticks for most recipes that call for shredded breast. Chicken legs are inexpensive, which means you can get a lot more for your money. In this economy, it’s always a great thing when you can stretch a buck. Drumsticks and thighs can range anywhere from $1.29 to $1.99 a pound, depending on where you shop. If you buy the entire quarter leg and cut them yourself, you can pay as little as 99 cents a pound. These definitely qualify as cheap eats!

Panko Covered Rosemary-Garlic Chicken Legs

Adapted from Tyler Florence

What You’ll Need:

10 chicken drumsticks
3 cups panko bread crumbs
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put a baking sheet in the oven while you preheat it. In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and rosemary with a bit of olive oil. In a shallow dish, mix the panko with the garlic, rosemary and olive oil mixture. Add salt and pepper, to taste. In a second shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper.  Place the flour in a third dish and season with salt and pepper. Take each chicken leg and dredge in flour, then the egg wash, then coat in the panko mixture. Lay the chicken on a tray while you finish the rest.

Remember that empty baking sheet you placed in the oven? Well, remove it  and brush some olive oil onto the hot surface. Carefully place the chicken legs onto the tray, making sure they are not crowded together. The drumsticks will sizzle when they come into contact with the baking sheet. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve. Enjoy!