Meals This Week

Dear readers, this week is a doozy. Let’s all take a deep breath, and do the best we can, okay? This meal plan is not glamorous in the slightest, but it will do the job.

Monday – Pioneer Woman’s chicken spaghetti

Tuesday – Boboli pizza (I’d love to feel ashamed, but I can’t! It’s my husband’s favorite. I think it’s gross.)

Wednesday – Fettucine similar to this with some leftover grilled chicken, and arugula if it lasts that long without wilting.

Thursday – I’m out with Ali for a fun night, and my husband can fend for himself!

Friday – Burgers and tater tots (We have so many burgers in the freezer. Why?)

Thanksgiving, 2017: The Plan

Normally, you all get a free preview of my meal plan on Tuesdays, but Thanksgiving has us all kinds of out of order, and with a few days ahead of us to start prepping, I’m sharing this year’s plan today, in hopes it may give you inspiration if you need it.

Spoiler alert: Dear guests who are also readers – don’t keep reading if you want to be surprised, but also, we’re mostly having what we always have. (These photos are from Thanksgiving, 2015)

andre, the turkey.


Mashed potatoes

Green bean casserole (made two days before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Stuffing (made the day before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Sweet potatoes (made two days before, cooked while the turkey is resting)

Brussels sprouts from my sister-in-law (usually roasted with pancetta, and whoops, now I’m drooling)

Cranberry sauce (made whenever my husband wants)

Biscuits (made in the morning and warmed up before dinner)

apple pie.

Apple pie (gifted by a friend)

Pumpkin pie (sold by a neighbor who is a far superior baker)

And this pecan praline sauce because I’m not making the usual bourbon pecan tart (made a day or two before)

And ice cream, because, duh

And orange cookies, because I can’t not bake anything. Hopefully they’ll be amazing, and you’ll see them before too much longer. (made the day before)

full plate.

The rest of the week, if you’re interested:

Sunday – Sausage and tomato risotto, which is a forever favorite.

Monday – hot dogs and tater tots, and some sort of veggie. Yep. That’s it.

Tuesday – A veggie and chicken stir-fry (love this teriyaki sauce the most) if I’m home early, and leftovers if I’m not.

Wednesday – whatever we didn’t do on Tuesday

Thursday – LOL, see above

Friday – PIE and only pie.

Saturday – Oh gracious, I don’t know yet.

The Story Behind the Menu – Weeknight Dinner for a Friend

Who: the three of us and a friend

What: a regular weeknight dinner

When: Monday evening

Why: because she works less than a mile away from our house, and we thought it’d be a blast



The thought process: I knew I had to make a lot of food that could be made in advance, and couldn’t make a single thing that would come together at the last minute. I was going to be prepping this with Gooplet right underfoot, so I had to stretch myself to find easy recipes that still qualified as classy.

The menu:

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk – it had been so long since I last roasted a chicken. It’s one of those tasks that could not be easier, and yet every time I’m about to do it, I get anxious about it. Good news: it continues to be the easiest, and turns out just great no matter what.

Ladd’s Roasted Potatoes – Last time I roasted a chicken was probably about the last time I made something from The Pioneer Woman, so I was long past due. Let me tell you – anything dripping in butter and Lawry’s is just fine by me. (Let me also tell you these would be just as delightful at breakfast as they were at dinner.)

Sauteed Green Beans – Whenever I need to take a vegetable dish to the next level, I make green beans a la my mother in law. Saute a finely chopped onion, add some minced garlic, salt and pepper, and some haricots vert. Quickest, easiest, best green bean dish ever. Add toasted, slivered almonds if you want some crunch.

Apple Pie a la mode – A neighbor of ours just started a pop up bake shop, and she sold apple pies to raise money for a wonderful cause. I bought one to enjoy at dinner, and had one less thing to worry about.

What worked: Dinner! My theory with almost every single kind of entertaining I’ve ever done is: it’s going to work because it has to work. It can’t not work. As I had no intention of calling this friend to cancel, I knew dinner was simply going to happen. There’s something about that mindset that helps me immensely. The wine was flowing, we put the kid to sleep before dessert, and kept the party going long into the night. (Well, long into the night for us parents, which means we were done by 10 and fully cleaned up by 10:30.)

What didn’t: I don’t think this didn’t work, but I wish I had made one or two more dishes. By loading my meal with butter, I’m confident our guest went home well-fed, but when I entertain I love having too much on the table. I wish I had done an arugula salad, and maybe some garlic bread too. And I didn’t take any pictures! That happens way too often these days.

The Wisdom of AGOMYR [pioneer woman’s twice baked potatoes]

After Thanksgiving, AGOMYR was kind enough to inquire as to the results of a little experiment I conducted in my kitchen.

“How were The Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes?”

“Oh, AGOMYR, they were good.  They have almost everything Grandma Glass of Milk’s recipe has.  But they just weren’t the same.”

“Um, of course they weren’t.”

Because nothing is ever the same as your grandma’s mashed potatoes.  Especially when you and your grandma have gone so far as to exchange Hallmark cards specifically about mashed potatoes.

So noted.


I can tell you, however, that The Pioneer Woman’s twice baked potatoes are absolutely and completely too good to be true.  There is not a shred of nutrition in them.  But now and again, I’m okay with that.

These would be a delightfully decadent addition to your Christmas table, and you could make them ahead of time, and reheat them in the oven right before serving.

To make potatoes for 12, you will need:

8 baking potatoes, washed
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 sticks salted butter
1 cup bacon bits (fry your own!)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Cheddar or Jack cheese (or a mix of both), plus more for topping
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3 green onions, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Rub them with the canola oil and bake for 1 hour, making sure they’re sufficiently cooked through.

Slice the butter into pats. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the bacon bits and sour cream. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F.

With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scrape out the insides into the mixing bowl, being careful not to tear the shell. Leave a small rim of potato intact for support. Lay the hollowed out potato shells on a baking sheet.

Smash the potatoes into the butter, bacon and sour cream. Add the cheese, milk, seasoned salt, green onions and black pepper to taste and mix together well. (IMPORTANT: If you plan to freeze the twice-baked potatoes, do NOT add the green onions.)

Fill the potato shells with the filling. I like to fill the shells so they look abundant and heaping. Top each potato with a little more grated cheese and pop ’em in the oven until the potato is warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pioneer Woman Desserts [creamy lemon crumb squares]

I’m laughing at myself today, because my group text friends have been going back and forth about a healthy baby food site they’re loving, and I’m sitting here, typing up a post about a Pioneer Woman dessert.*  Ah, well, it was sent to me by one of those group texters.  While there’s no one whose lemon squares I love more than Ina herself, these are a different, creamier take on the classic.  Instead of a shortbread crust, there’s oatmeal on the top and bottom layer of these.  They paired so well with the Leinenkugels I was downing at the beach.


To make 16 small bars, or 9 larger ones, you will need:

  • 1-1/3 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 stick (1/2 Cup) Butter, Slightly Softened
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar (lightly Packed)
  • 1 cup Oats
  • 1 can (14 Oz. Size) Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 cup Lemon Juice
  • Zest Of 1 Lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter and brown sugar until well combined.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.

Add oats and flour to butter/sugar mixture and mix to combine.

Press half of crumb mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 11 inch pan.

Mix together condensed milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Spread onto the bottom layer of the crumb mixture. Top with the other half of the crumb mixture, but don’t press.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allow pan to sit on counter for 30 minutes after baking. Cut into squares and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until cool.

Serve cool.

*p.s. It’s been so long since I’ve made anything Pioneer Woman, and I’m glad to “see” her again.  Let’s not go so long between recipes next time, Ree.

GOAT [pioneer woman’s brisket]

  1.  City Sports is going out of business and if you go to the store, everything is on sale.  Everything.  North Face.  Patagonia.  Under Armour.  And this.


(totally switched this one out for a grey one, though)

For those of you who don’t dabble in athletics, GOAT is Greatest of All Time.  Which, coincidentally, is what I think of The Pioneer Woman’s brisket.  (Though, honestly, I don’t know that this is her recipe, so much as her specific measurements and cooking times for a a classic brisket.)  I spent a fortune on good meat on Saturday morning, and got it into the oven by noon.  At 8 pm, we dug into the most wonderful and hearty meal.  I love when meat roasts all day during the cold-weather months.

pw brisket.

To make brisket, you will need:

  • 5-8 pounds of brisket
  • 24 oz. ketchup
  • 1 package onion soup mix
  • 1 C water
  • several dashes hot sauce.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Whisk ketchup, soup mix, water, and hot sauce in the bottom of an oven safe dish.  Add meat*, and work it around so it’s completely covered with sauce.  Cook 6-8 hours.

*I start my meat fat side up, flip it once about a third of the way through cooking, and flip it again after another couple of hours.  If you don’t want to even bother opening the oven, I’d cook it fat side up and leave it that way the whole time.

Silver Dollar Pancakes

I am 90% certain that 90% of my pancake posts begin with, “It’s been so long since I’ve posted pancakes, but…”

Dear readers, it has been so long since I’ve posted pancakes!

Usually when I say that, it means I’ve been making these, which you already know about.

But this time it means that we haven’t been making pancakes.

Which is truly unacceptable.

silver dollar pancakes

So I made silver dollar pumpkin pancakes.

I’ve never made silver dollar pancakes.

I doubt I’ve eaten silver dollar pancakes.

But they’re cute.

And with pumpkin and chocolate chips, they’re great for a lazy Sunday morning.

I cut Ree’s recipe in half, which was more than plenty for my husband and me.

To make a whole bunch, you will need:

  • 1 1/2 C cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 1/2 T sugar (Ree calls for white, which is what I used, but next time, I’d go brown.)
  • 1 C canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 C milk
  • 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (which I never have, so I just threw in some cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger)
  • 1 C chocolate chips (optional if you’re my husband, required if you want my respect)

Whisk cake flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar together in large bowl.  Whisk remaining ingredients in smaller bowl.  Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk until mostly smooth.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a schmear of butter to the skillet till it sizzles.  Using a cookie scoop, or just a tablespoon measure, place dollops of batter along the skillet.  Watch them carefully, as it could take less than a minute for bubbles to appear on the top side of the pancakes.  This means it’s flip time.  Flip the pancakes when they start to show bubbles, and cook them one minute more on the other side.  As pancakes finish up, throw them on a baking sheet in the preheated oven.  I don’t usually take this step, but with tiny little pancakes that cooked faster than I could keep up, it was a lifesaver.

The Secret

Do you remember when Oprah found out about The Secret and all of a sudden, much like everything Oprah touts, it was everywhere?  I didn’t read the book but I remember watching the show and hearing that the basic premise is, if you put good juju into the universe, if you visualize the things you want, the universe will give them to you.

I think it means if you want people to be nice to you, you have to be nice to people.

I think it means if you want big things, you have to start taking little steps towards getting them.

I think it means if you want Jay Z and Justin Timberlake tickets for your birthday, you have to ask Wooden Nickels to get them, you can’t expect the universe to read your mind.

taco salad

Wait, what?

I’m sorry.

I have never liked salad.  I have always liked ice cream.  But I’ve also never really liked how much I struggle to button my jeans when I’ve over-indulged at the beach for two weeks, so I envisioned myself as someone who liked salads.  Because surely people who like salads never struggle to button their jeans.  Or if they do, only a couple green meals stand between them and squeezing back into their pants.

taco salad 2

I have tried salads on enough occasions that I’ve made them–or the universe has, you pick–palatable.  And when you mix in enough foods I love, to the point that you can barely spot a lettuce leaf in between all that goodness, I even enjoy them.

taco salad 3

Ree posted her chicken taco salad earlier this summer and I dreamed of it every night till I went to work putting it on our (beach) table.

taco salad 4

This salad falls squarely under Option 2 of this post.  It’s the kind of dinner that requires a fair amount of chopping.  If you’re handy with a knife, it won’t take long to get this on your table solo, but why not invite some friends and have them help you?  My husband was sous chef on this one (sorry, SCL, I miss you!) and I loved having a second set of hands to make light work.

taco salad 5

Though I’m including the recipe below, please put your own spin on this.  I’m tagging it as a vegetarian option because Wooden Nickels seemed to like it just fine without the chicken.  My husband and I liked it just fine without the chips, which we completely forgot to add.  Go where the spirit moves you.

To make taco salad for 4, you will need:

For the salad:

  • 1 bunch of your favorite greens (we went with Romaine)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 ears corn, cooked and kernels removed
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 avocados, large diced
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced (while on vacation, I bought pre-cooked)
  • 1/2 C shredded cheese of your choice (we had cheddar on hand)
  • 1/2 C chopped cilantro
  • crushed tortilla chips for serving (if you want)

For the dressing:

  • 3 parts Ranch dressing
  • 1 part salsa
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Get a huge bowl out and pile on the lettuce.  Add tomatoes, corn kernels, scallions avocados, chicken, cheese and cilantro.  Give everything a huge toss.

In small bowl, mix dressing by combining all ingredients.

Pour over salad and toss.  I’m always cautious with my dressing at first.  Then I toss, taste, and add more if need be.  A word to the wise that this is a situation where you can easily add more dressing, but once poured, it’s quite difficult to add less.

Scoop into individual bowls, and top with crushed tortilla chips.

*A note – if you have picky eaters, or people who can’t stand cilantro, you could easily serve this taco salad a la taco night.  Place all the ingredients in bowls and give everyone a bowl full of lettuce.  Let your picky tablemates create the salad of their dreams and everyone goes home happy.


Fats and Starches

When the Superbowl rolled around, I showed this bread to my husband and asked, “OMG, wouldn’t this be perfect for the Superbowl?”

cheesy bread“Meh,” he replied.  His laid back attitude about my cooking has been noted before.

I wasn’t ready to let the dream of this bread die that quickly, not at the hands of my health conscious husband.  When Superbowl Sunday rolled around, I taught him how to whip up the wings he so adores.  While he set to work preparing our protein, I took care of the fats and starches food groups.  I always do them so well.

closeup cheesy breadCheddar Tailgating Bread is a giant round loaf of sourdough (my favorite, and truly the only option when you’re working with extra sharp cheddar), cut into a grid and filled to the brim with ooey gooey goodness like melted butter, cheddar, and scallions.  Then, like your favorite Outback Steakhouse Staple, you pick apart the pieces, one at a time, until a quarter of football goes by and you realize half the loaf is gone.

I know football season is over, but I promise the window of opportunity for cheddar tailgating bread has not closed.  If you’re in the middle of soup season, this makes the most wonderful accompaniment you could hope for.

To make a loaf you will need:

  • A loaf of sourdough
  • 6 T (3/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice your sourdough in a grid pattern, creating 1-inch squares of bread.  Pry the bread apart with your hands, creating space between the pieces.  Place loaf on double-foil-lined baking sheet.  In bowl, combine butter, garlic, and scallions.  Spoon butter mixture into the crevices created by the bread.  It’s going to ooze out through the slits, but your double-lined-foil creation, should do a bit to help with that.  Gently wrap foil up and around the loaf, and bake, wrapped, for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, remove the bread from the oven, unwrap foil, and start loading your loaf up with cheese.  I found I had to do some more re-prying open here to get the cheese everywhere in this beast.  Crank the oven to 425 and bake loaf, unwrapped this time, another 15 minutes, until bread is golden brown and cheese is bubbling.

Let loaf sit for 5 minutes to cool down.  Since you’re eating this with your fingers, you’ll know if you’ve started digging for pieces too soon.  It may not stop you from going to town, though.

My Culinary Everest

For so long, I was intimidated by Ree’s Cinnamon Rolls.

I’m going to keep on capitalizing Ree’s Cinnamon Rolls, because, well, duh.

Though I’ve made plenty of bread in my day there seemed to be a lot of rising time with Ree’s Cinnamon Rolls, and I feared the doughy process would cause me stress over the better part of two days.

It didn’t.

Ree’s Cinnamon Rolls were easy.

Really, really, easy.

Take a look.

dream dough

This dough is a dream to work with.  I’ll take it over pie crust any day.

butterMy husband asked whether this recipe contained a normal person amount of butter or a Grandma Glass of Milk amount of butter.  I responded, “More.”

skating pondNo, that’s not a skating pond, it’s a lake of butter.  Smelled like a movie theater up in here.

spillageThis was just the beginning of the spillage.  As I understand it, that means I used just enough butter.

bunsI grabbed the extra cinnamon/butter/sugar mixture off the counter, and schmeared it atop the rolls.


And then they baked up all purty, like the Pillsbury ones do.  But puffier.

glazingGlazing things is my favorite.  None of that precision like you need when you’re frosting.

finished rollsWait, I take it back.

dig inEating them is my favorite part.

Here are my notes on these beauties (Ree’s too):

  • There will be butter.  Get ready.  It will ooze out of the giant dough roll and spill into whatever kitchen territory you occupy.  And then some.  Be prepared.  Kitchen towels are your best friend.
  • Also clean your counter before you start working.  That way you can scoop up the excess butter/cinnamon/sugar mixture and schmear it on the rolls like I did.
  • I halved the recipe and everything worked out just as peachily-keen as it should have.
  • I didn’t glaze the rolls fresh out of the oven, thus they don’t look exactly like Ree’s.  This bothers me.  They taste amazing.  It shouldn’t.
  • I can’t wait to make these again.
  • Now that my culinary Everest turned out to be more of a mole hill and less of a mountain, I need something else to be afraid to make.  Any ideas?