Sunday, January 24, 2016

Creamy Pumpkin Pizza with Truffled Gouda and Herbed Ricotta

Creamy Pumpkin Pizza with Truffled Gouda and Herbed Ricotta 

I know that title's a little crazy, but this pizza is a mouthful, both in name and flavor.  There are so many wonderful things going on here, but the creamy pumpkin sauce, truffled gouda, and herbed ricotta are the highlights and thus deserve top billing.

The first time I made this pizza I had a vague idea of what I wanted to use and the flavor profile I was hoping to achieve.  When we make homemade pizzas, oftentimes they are kind of a thrown-together mish mash of random veggies, meats, and cheeses I have on hand.  It's always good, because you know… pizza.  However, this one blew me away, and I immediately added it to my menu for the following week, being sure to take careful notes so I could share it with you guys!  And… 4 months later, here we are ;)

I started with a creamy pumpkin alfredo-type sauce -- just a standard white sauce with the addition of a little tomato paste and pumpkin puree.  That in and of itself was great, and the extra sauce made for an excellent dipping sauce for the crust.  I topped the sauce with fresh spinach and onion, then finished it off with a cheesy trio -- mozzarella, truffled gouda, and dollops of herbed ricotta.  The result was one of the best pizzas I've ever made.  I try and keep a general rule here that I don't post recipes that use specialty ingredients, so I was a little weary of sharing this one due to the truffled gouda.  But I see it pretty regularly at Whole Foods, and my Trader Joe's has a truffled Italian cheese that's akin of fontina, and that works as well (I tested it just for y'all. ;))  In a pinch, you could easily use plain gouda and then finish the pizza with a little drizzle of truffle oil.  I love to serve this pizza with my shredded brussels sprouts salad (but I leave the cheese out of the salad since there's so much on the pizza); the flavors go really well together, and it makes for a lovely and simple meal.

On an unrelated note, as we enter the new year, and I plan for my blog, I'd love to hear from you!  What kinds of posts and recipes would you love to see here?  Any specific ideas, foods, round-ups, tutorials, etc?  More or less of my kids? ;)  I'm open to any and all suggestions!

Creamy Pumpkin Pizza with Truffled Gouda and Herbed Ricotta 

Creamy Pumpkin Pizza with Truffled Gouda and Herbed Ricotta

  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbs pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbs shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb pizza dough
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 packed cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion
  • 1 cup grated truffled gouda cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour, tomato paste, and garlic, and cook, stirring continuously, for about 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook until thickened, stirring often, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from heat, fish out the garlic clove, and stir in the parmesan cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Sprinkle a large square of parchment paper with cornmeal, and roll and stretch the dough into a 14-16 inch circle, or large oval.   Brush the perimeter of the dough with olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta with the thyme, rosemary, and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce over the dough, leaving a 1 inch border.  Scatter the spinach and onions over the sauce, then sprinkle the mozzarella and gouda over the vegetables.  Using a teaspoon, dot the top with the ricotta.  

Transfer the pizza plus parchment to the preheated stone, and cook 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown.  Remove from oven, allow to cool 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 in Review: Our Life


Wow.  So I haven't posted since October.  Sorry about that!  I felt very overwhelmed and was really busy this fall, and just needed to let something go.  So I'm sorry about the radio silence here, but it was much needed on my part.  I thought that maybe if I took a break from the blog, I could keep my house clean, get in more workouts, have more time to read and pray, and generally just get my head above water for a bit.  Well, as it turns out, my house is still messy.  I still miss more workouts than I'd like to admit.  The only books I read lately are about autism treatments and nutrition.  And I still feel like I'm barely treading water most days.  But here's the thing -- I miss this place!  I miss taking pics of my food, I miss writing, I miss hearing from you guys.  Can we try this again in 2016, pretty please?

So thankful for these four little faces. 💛💛👫👬💛💛

When I first sat down to write about 2015, I looked back at the recipes I shared with you; but to be honest, 2015 was not about the food for me.  2015 was about Henry.  I could say that a dark cloud was cast upon the year because of Henry's autism diagnosis.  It's been way too easy for me to get bogged down in the negativity, fear, and sadness associated with that diagnosis.  Believe me, I feel all of that!  But then I look at what he's accomplished and who he is.  He went from being completely nonverbal in June, to having a vocabulary of almost 100 words in December.  He is quite literally obsessed with animals, and he can tell you the sounds of almost any animal you can think of.  When he wants milk, he asks for milk, rather than throwing himself down in front of the refrigerator, screaming and crying.  He looks me in the eye.  He holds my hand.  He gives me kisses if I ask.  And he calls me mommy, Joey Daddy, and Tucker "Tuck Tuck."  He's such a special little boy, and I am constantly amazed by him.  We have some pretty tough and stressful decisions to make about his future in the next few weeks; but based on the progress he's made in the last three months, he is so ready to fly, and I can't wait to see how high he'll go.

It's nutcracker time!! Caroline the cupcake! 

Henry is not our only child though.  We had lots of adventures and fun with the other three as well.  Smith played t-ball, Tucker's personality continued to shine bright and bold, and Caroline performed in a local production of The Nutcracker.  Perfectly cast as a cupcake, she was adorable and sweet, and she's already talking about what she wants to be next year.  Spoiler alert:  the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Photo booth fun!  #besties #2016

So 2015 was tough. It tested me, it was just hard.  We went though a LOT this year.  But we started 2016 with a bang.  My girl Annie and her sweet family came to visit us over the New Year's holiday, and we rang in 2016 with Mexican food, blood orange-passion fruit margaritas, dancing, and fun.  We laughed, ate, and talked our faces off, and I could not have asked for a better time.  If that is any indication of what the new year has in store, then I am excited and blessed beyond belief!

I felt like I owed you guys an update and explanation of my absence, but have no fear:  I'll be back again this week with a roundup of the top dishes of 2015, and then I'll be jumping into new recipes!  I have so many ideas and plans for the new year, and I'm so excited to share it all with you!  xoxo

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs 

Thank you all so very much for your kind words, comments, emails, stories, messages, and support in response to my last post.  I've been trying to write this post for the last three and half weeks, but I can't ever seem to find the right words to express my gratitude. I've finally realized that all I really have to say in response is "thank you."  It means so much to me that so many of you reached out to me following Henry's autism diagnosis, and I really just cannot put my gratitude and love into words.  Our family has been so touched by the support we've received from my internet friends, and we're so humbled and thankful for the community we have here.  Truly, you guys have brought tears to my eyes, a smile to my face, and happiness to my heart.

Oftentimes when I lack the words like this, I allow food to speak for me.  Cooking and baking for others is definitely how I show my love and friendship, so I can think of nothing better to share with you now than pure comfort food -- in the form of meatloaf meatballs.  To me, meatloaf is the quintessential comfort food.  However, it's not the healthiest meal out there, and it's not very practical for a weeknight unless you prep it ahead of time.  Enter -- turkey meatloaf meatballs!

These meatballs are healthier than traditional meatloaf, since they are made with ground turkey, and they are faster to assemble and cook as well.  For some reason my kids are more likely to eat a meatball than a meat-loaf, so they were a BIG hit with the little ones as well!

For a brief moment, I considered keeping this dinner really healthy, and serving the meatballs over cauliflower puree…. but I quickly came to my senses and affirmed that mashed potatoes just aren't optional when it comes to eating meatloaf.  A side of roasted brussels sprouts rounded out this meal, and we all left the table with happy bellies and happy hearts.

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs
glaze from Cook's Illustrated

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp finely minced fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with a sheet of aluminum foil.  Spray it lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, onion, garlic, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, breadcrumbs, and the egg.  Gently but thoroughly use your hands to combine the mixture and incorporate all the ingredients.

Use an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure to form meatballs, and arrange them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the meatballs for 11 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until it's thickened and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Divide the glaze between 2 small bowls.

Using half the glaze, brush the meatballs all around.  Return them to the oven and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze.  Serve the meatballs over mashed potatoes.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Different, not less.


For months, I've been trying to figure out the best way to share this, or whether it was even appropriate to share at all.  This is part of why I've been quiet the past few months, and why the posting has been infrequent.  But especially over the past week, I've felt a strong pull to let you into our life.   I feel inauthentic by not talking about this, and I feel as though I'm faking it by pretending that everything is status quo.

For almost the past year, I've alluded to family issues, developmental delays, emotional times, and busy busy weeks.  All of those are simply euphemisms and roundabout ways to get to the point without saying the words.  The truth is -- our sweet Henry was diagnosed with autism this summer.

It wasn't a surprise; we expected this news.  He's nonverbal with a whole host of sensory, behavioral, and social issues.  Yet I still experienced pretty much every emotion under the sun when I heard those words.  I cried both tears of relief and tears of sadness.  Relief because it meant that we now had a diagnosis for what we've known all along, and we could begin to move forward with a real plan in place.  Sadness because, of course I was sad!  Since his diagnosis, I've continued to experience all sorts of conflicting emotions.  But one thing has grown stronger, and that's my love for Henry.  Yes, being diagnosed with autism is indeed life-changing news.  But it did not change our life.  We go on like we always have -- laughing and loving.

Henry has the sweetest soul you've ever known.  If you want to witness pure innocence, just look into his big brown eyes.  When he engages with you, it will melt your heart; whether its a fist bump, a high five, or the rare kiss. Henry is my hero.  Life is not easy for him, and he has a long road ahead of him.  But he wakes up smiling every morning, and he loves life in a way that I've never seen before.  His spirit is strong, and I know he's going to be okay.

Love needs no words, and I feel and see true, unadulterated love every time I look at Henry and anytime he looks at me.  Caroline already knew that Henry was different,  and that his brain works differently from ours; she knew that Henry doesn't use words, and he doesn't always "know how to make good choices."  When we explained Henry's autism to Caroline, we did so with the help of the book My Brother Charlie.  There is a page that I've since bookmarked.  As Caroline read this passage aloud, she replaced "Charlie" with "Henry," and said that this is how she feels about him.  It's how we all feel.

I've learned from Henry that love doesn't always come from what you say.  It can also come from what you do.  And so we do right by Henry.  We love him strong.  And we watch over him with the might of angels.  We have to.


Part of my initial sadness was due to the fact that he's a twin.  He's forever being compared to Tucker, and I felt like it wasn't fair to Henry to live in that comparison for his whole life.  Until I realized something: he has an advocate and protector in Tucker.  They might not be on the same path, but Henry has Tucker (and Caroline and Smith) as built in advocates for life.  I truly feel that they are a gift for us and Henry in that way.  Caroline has already assumed that role; she is fiercely protective of him, and she has made it her mission to educate her friends on autism.

I don't intend to sugar coat this.  It's not a fun road we're on.  We have some really bad moments.  He struggles every. single. day.  We garner a lot of stares and disapproving looks, and have already encountered many people who simply think we need to do a better job of disciplining him.  Some days I feel good about the hand we've been dealt, and I feel good about our plan.  But some days I count down the hours until I can crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep.  At the unfairness of it all; for us, and for the millions of other families who are going though the same thing, in this club that none of us asked to join.

We don't know what the future holds for Henry.  We are hopeful that with the intensive early interventions we are doing, he will be able to use words to communicate and grow to be independent and highly functional.  In a few weeks, he'll be starting at an autism therapy-focused preschool, so we are very excited to see the progress he will make there.  For now, we live and we love Henry, and we've adopted this song by Phillip Phillips as our anthem to him.  These are the word I wish he could understand. Because if nothing else, I want him to always know how very loved he is.

Hold on to me as you go
As we roll down these unfamiliar roads
And though this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
I'm gonna make this place your home.

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear
The trouble - it might drag you down
If you get lost you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
I'm gonna make this place your home.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sweet Corn Queso Dip

Sweet Corn Queso Dip 

Normally as we round the corner into the fall, I'm digging in my heels and refusing to acknowledge the end of summer.  I'm definitely not one of those people who turns into PUMPKIN EVERYTHING in mid august… or mid September even.  Up until September 23rd, I'm firmly still in summer-mode.  Thus, while bloggers everywhere are bringing you pumpkin and apples, I'm bringing you sweet corn queso dip.  I might not be a cool, up to the minute blogger, but I'm living in the now.  And the now is gorgeous weather, football, corn, and queso.  Queso is always in the now.

This queso is a little more than just corn mixed into queso.  You puree some of the kernels, then mix in whole kernels; thus creating a perfect corny bite.  While this is an ode to summer corn, it's also pretty much a perfect snack for watching football, cooking out, or just sitting outside and enjoying the perfect weather with a margarita.

I'm pretty much a sucker for any queso dip, but combining it with some of my favorite summer produce was revolutionary.  We all huddled around this scooping, dipping, and munching until the dish was scraped clean.  So whether you are a fall-lover or a stage five summer-clinger, this dip will definitely make you happy!  Long live queso!

Sweet Corn Queso Dip

Sweet Corn Queso Dip
adapted from Food and Wine, December 2013

While you can definitely use frozen corn for this, I'd highly recommend that you use fresh corn when it's in it's peak!  

  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (4-5 ears).
  • reserved cobs from corn
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
  • cilantro, tomatoes, onions, jalapeño slices, etc for garnish
Cut the kernels from the cob.  Using the back of a spoon, scrape the spent cobs to "milk" them.  

In a blender, combine half the corn kernels, the corn milk, and 1/3 cup of water.  Puree until smooth.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the poblano and onion, and cook until softened, stirring often, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the remaining corn, a big pinch of salt, garlic, and chile powder.  Cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the corn puree and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cheese, a little at a time, until it is melted and incorporated.  Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro, then season with additional salt if needed.  Garnish with diced tomatoes, more cilantro, jalaponeo slice, etc.  Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cola-Grilled Flank Steak with Fritos Chilaquiles

Coke-Marinated Flank Steak over Fritos Chilaquiles

Do you need a minute here?  A minute to process this?  It's crazy, I know.  When I told Joey what I was making for dinner, he asked if it was a "gas station food challenge." It was not. But what it was, was an irresistible recipe that I couldn't stop thinking and daydreaming about from the moment I saw it.  I have a not-so-secret love of Fritos, so Fritos, cooked in salsa?  Uh, yeah.  Sounds right up my alley.

This was a really fun dinner, and one that I would actually love to serve to company.  How kitschy  and cute is this?  A big platter of Fritos cooked in salsa, topped with a sweet and spicy grilled steak?  It's a little out there, but in the best way possible.  What a conversation starter this dinner is!

Because this is from Food and Wine, they give a wine pairing recommendation, but I'm hard pressed to serve this with anything other than a jack and coke or a forty of beer. ;)

Coke-Marinated Flank Steak over Fritos Chilaquiles 

Cola-Grilled Flank Steak with Fritos Chilaquiles
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4 to 6

  • 4 cups of coca-cola, preferably made with cane sugar (instead of HFCS)
  • 1 Tbs This green curry paste
  • 1 jalapeño chiles, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 lbs flank steak, trimmed and cut lengthwise and crosswise to make 4 steaks
  • 1 Tbs canola oil, plus more for brushing
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups salsa verde
  • 8 oz Fritos, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 3 Tbs Cotija or queso fresco cheese
  • lime wedges
In a 9x13 inch baking dish, whisk the coke with the green curry paste and jalapeños.  Add the flank steaks and turn them several times to thoroughly coat them with the marinade. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  

Meanwhile, light and prepare the grill.  

Remove the steaks from the marinade and brush with oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Grill, turning once, until medium-rarre, about 6 to 8 minutes total.  Transfer to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and allow rest for 10 minutues.

As the steaks rest, prepare the chilaquiles.  

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the salsa verde and bring to a simmer.  Cook until slightly reduced and thickened, about 4 minutes.  Add half of the fritos and cook, stirring constantly about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the remaining fritos, along with 1/4 cup of the cilantro and half of the avocado and cheese.   Transfer the chilaquiles to a platter.

Sice the steak thinly across the grain, and arrange it over the chilaquiles, along with any accumulated juices.  Scatter the remaining avocado, cilantro, and cheese over top, and serve with lime wedges.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Macaroni and Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Mac and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Oh boy.  There's a lot to love about these babies.  Creamy, cheesy, mac and cheese baked inside tender, sweet zucchini?  Yeah, sign me right up.

Just because there's half a zucchini in every serving, I'm not fooling myself (or you guys) into thinking this is healthy.  BUT.  It is built in portion control.  And there's a serving of veggies along with your carbs and cheese.  Thus, it's not the most indulgent calorie bomb in the world, but rather a nice treat that you don't have to feel super totally guilty about enjoying.  Really you can use any mac and cheese recipe you'd like; I'm just sharing what I did this time… but feel free to mix it up or add some extras!  Bacon would be great, as would tomatoes, shredded zucchini, chicken, or an infinite number of cheeses as well.

My kids are mac and cheese aficionados… er, addicts.  So I fully expected them to just scoop out the mac and cheese and leave the zucchini, but surprisingly, they ate up the zucchini as well!  I've made countless variations of stuffed zucchini - sausage and cheese, chili, enchiladas, etc.  The mac and cheese was a new one for me, but it's definitely going into my rotation.  Do you have zucchini coming out of your ears these days?  If so, stuff it with some mac and cheese!

Macaroni and Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
inspired by Melt, by Stephanie Stiavetti & Garrett McCord

  • 3-4 medium zucchini (about 3 lbs)
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • 5 oz elbow macaroni or other small pasta shape
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 1 cup milk or half-and-half
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz Swiss or Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 3 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Halve each zucchini lengthwise, and use a large spoon of scrape out the seeds and filling, leaving a thin border on all sides.  Brush the inside lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer, cut side-down, on a baking sheet or 9x13 inch baking dish.  Cook 5 to 7 minutes, and remove from the oven.

Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until just al dente, about 8 to 9 minutes (or according to the package instructions).

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the garlic, shallot, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.  Add the flour and cook, again, stirring constantly, until the flour is golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes.  Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, and cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.  

Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, one handful at a time, until it's melted and the sauce is smooth.    Reserve about 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese for topping.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in the cooked pasta.

Using a large spoon, fill each zucchini boat with the macaroni and cheese, and arrange the boats in a single layer in a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top.  

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the mac and cheese is bubbly and the zucchini is tender and cooked through.  Serve.