Tag Archives: #thepioneerwoman

A Very Tardy End of Summer Post – In Poetic Verse

Editor’s Note: It’s better if you sing it to the tune of Gilligan’s Island.

We went on vacation to Michigan City
With a quick stop in Grand Beach
We drove home for bit, 12 hours to be exact,
Then South Bend we did reach
Then South Bend we did reach.

We came back home and went to camp
Practiced instruments for a singing señora
Because with sBork now joining the band
We rocked out in Aurora
We rocked out in Aurora.

Then me and mBork made a feast
for the post-show rock and roll crowd
With so many families here at once,
The children were really loud,
The children were really loud.

And next thing you know the Second Set
Was turning ten years old,
With Drummer Boy
and Miss M too
the Big C and his smile
A movie star
Baby D and a Nemo hood
Here on Lucky Rhino!


Sweet house we rented:


Sweet kids we took:


Sweet drumsticks I made:


I made these Honey Teriyaki Drumsticks from Skinnytaste.  Doubled the recipe, didn’t use sesame seeds (Drummer Boy has a bad reaction – and you never know when he might actually enjoy the food I cook!). These got thumbs up all around from those who do eat food.  Served with white rice with extra sauce spooned over.  Yum!

Since it was vacation, it begged for dessert. Begged, wouldn’t shut up about it. So if you are going to do dessert, go big, go YUGE, go Pioneer Woman’s Easy Peach Dumplings.  Turn this


Into this:


You feel like a horrible person while making these.  So much butter! Soda! Processed dough! Trust me, you get over it when they are done and topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. FYI – I used one of the tiny cans of Sprite you can buy at Target.  6 oz. maybe, but not a regular size one.

Unfortunately we had to go to South Bend for Kevin’s dad’s memorial service. There are lots of places on the internet to read about how great Bill Guilfoile was, but here is one from Kevin.

Even though the circumstances were sad, the cousins enjoyed getting together.  It’s probably been about 4 years since we’ve all been in one place.  So logically, we played a card game (Mafia) where people had to gang up on each other and accuse each other of crimes.  Natch.

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The Big Show

The boys and sBork did a great show for School of Rock. They represented the Austin City Limits festival with B-52s, Weezer and Billy Idol.


DSC_0804 (1)

DSC_0850So we has a Aprés Rock Show get together for those who came to the show.  With an Asian themed dinner party.  Just like all the hep bands do.

I made this Asian Chopped Salad also from Skinnytaste.  It’s a great salad, colorful and crunchy.


And mBork made these Dragon Noodles which were ah.maze.ing.


She also made Asian Marinated flank steak and I did a basic grilled chicken with an lightly spiced brine.

Grilled Chicken with Asian Brine
Heat 8 cups water with 8 TBSP salt and 4 TBSP sugar, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 3 splashes of low sodium soy sauce.  Heat only until salt and sugar dissolved. Once cool, place chicken parts (we used boneless breasts) in bag or covered bowl with brine to cover and put back in the refrigerator. Boneless – brine up to 6 hours before, bone-in could probably stay in longer.  Take out, dry off and grill as you normally would. Discard the brine.

The Big 1-0

The Second Set are all turning 10 within sixteen days in August/September so we had the family party.


I made Olympic themed goody boxes with my Avery template that I’m always going on about. Filled them with Cheetos, pretzels, red/white/blue Hershey’s kisses – you know, the snacks of champions.


I was in charge of salads so I made a Zippy Orzo Summer Salad from Pinch of Yum.  Spinach, fresh corn, garlic, cucumbers.  A bowl of summer.  The only thing I did differently was I did not add chicken and I sautéed the baby spinach with the corn and garlic.


Also made this Nancy’s Chopped Salad from Smitten Kitchen. Didn’t use chickpeas because although I like them pureed (hummus) or fried crunchy (Vistro restaurant in Hinsdale, check it out), I don’t like them whole.  Go figure.


And then we had a majority of the Expensive People* over for Pizza Night (*so named because the first time we went out over 16 years ago, it got a leeeeetle out of hand food and drink-wise at the restaurant).


And now it’s back to school.


Back to the daily grind, the piles of homework, soccer practice and certainly cut down on the parties. Well, until the next Pizza Night!

Have a great week everyone!


Trying to be Organized

Inspired by, but nowhere near as cool as Shutterbean’s Meal Prep, the last two Sundays I have tried to pre-prep a number of items so that I would be all “Weeknight dinner ready in 10 minutes boys!” during the week. Erp. Didn’t exactly go down that way. But, I did shave some time off my game.

As much as I like to cook, I have a confession. I can’t stand leftovers. There, it’s out there. Once it is cooked and eaten, I really don’t want that dish again for a long while. Thankfully Kevin likes leftovers, so there is no waste. But it also means I don’t tend to repeat the same meal within a month.  So I have also tried to use Sundays to make a big meal where I can freeze half for another time at least a month later. That should save some time during the winter blahs in terms of getting a decent dinner on the table.

Enough yakkity-yakking.

The first Sunday, I made Short Rib Pasta Sauce from How Sweet It Is.  Divine!


Added bonus: Pizza Mike made The Pioneer Woman’s Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes. He did the batter and home and brought it here to cook and it worked just fine. An awesome treat with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (which I would have a picture of, but every time we topped one – swipe! it was gone).


Froze half of the short rib pasta sauce for another day. While that cooked, I made garlic confit (garlic cloves roasted in 2/3 cup grape seed covered in a dish in a 250 oven for 1.5 hours – cool completely and store in airtight jar in fridge for a week), chopped parsley and cut up vegetables for salads.


Next day, used oil and half the parsley in Garlic Walnut Pasta.


Garlic Walnut Pasta

4 TBSP garlic olive oil or just regular olive oil
1 cups walnut pieces
2 cloves minced garlic (one if you used garlic olive oil)
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan
kosher salt to taste
3/4 lb linguine

Prepare pasta to al dente, reseve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain. Heat oil in a frying or sauté pan.  Add walnuts and toast, stirring, for about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and basil and stir until softened, about 2-3 minutes.  Add pasta to the pan and toss with tongs to coat.  Add cheese and stir and finish with the parsley.

Then two days later, I used the parsley and some chopped basil to make a salmon dish


Parmesan Herb Crusted Salmon
adapted from Add a Pinch

1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tsp garlic oil (or olive oil plus a dash of garlic powder)
salt and pepper to taste
2 6 oz salmon filets

Heat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place salmon skin side down on the foil and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover loosely with either foil or parchment (preferred) and bake for 10 minutes. Combine first four ingredients in a bowl until they hold together. If too loose, add a dash more oil.

Remove salmon from oven and take cover off. Press the cheese mixture onto the top until it adheres. Put back in oven for about 10 minutes more or until fish is cooked through and top is all melted. If you would like the top to brown a little more, feel free to put it under the broiler for a few minutes. Me, I’m afraid of the broiler. I feel like if I take my eyes off of it for three seconds BAM!, burnt. But you do what you need to do.

Then the next Sunday I became all things tomato. I made Pioneer Woman’s Stuffed Shells and froze half. I cooked chicken breasts.


Then I took the chicken off the bone and shredded it. Helpful hint from How Sweet It Is. If you ever need to shred a bunch of chicken, put it in a bowl and use your hand mixer. Yep, pinky-swear it works.

final1453638603261Used the shredded chicken to make tacos (mix with cumin and chili powder or just package of taco seasoning and a dash of chicken stock if your chicken is too dry).  Add some cotija cheese or queso fresco, lettuce or slaw of your choice and a squeeze of lime and wrap in a toasted corn or flour tortilla). final1453638824493Using many of the same ingredients, made a slow cooker batch of The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Tortilla Soup and froze half (without the tortillas or cheese in it).


And since the slow cooker was out anyway, and by now I had bronchitis and a sinus infection – I’m so pretty!!! – I only wanted more soup so I made Two Peas and Their Pod’s Creamy Tomato Soup with Orzo  with grilled gruyere cheese sandwiches. Freezer’s getting full!

final1453642002480Used the various precut vegetables in salads or as sides. Used orzo as a side to the salmon, froze the extra and then used in the soup. Froze a lot of rice too. So in February I’ll have some freezer meals ready to go.

Speaking of February, if your potted Christmas tree from the grocery store is still going strong, rewrap that baby, add some cookie cutters and make that poor shrub feel seasonal again!

final1453638727816Yep, those are cat paws to the right. Skunk the Cat – always helping.


Have a great week everyone.

Thanksgiving to Christmas in 37 Hours

Well another Thanksgiving in the books. This one with the oven going berserk three (3) times while turkey was in. First, beeping uncontrollably until we had to throw the breaker.  Second, decided to go into Sabbath mode (who knew?!) where it holds only the last temperature so that people don’t have to turn on the ovens during Sabbath.   Except the last temperature was now about 40 degrees lower than it needed to be to finish the turkey.  And finally, one more combo beeping/Sabbath mode until the breaker was thrown again.

Thankfully the turkey was at a safe temperature to remove to rest, so I shoved those stuffings in before my oven taught me any new religious holidays and told everyone NOT to open the oven doors until I was sure the stuffing was cooked. There is clearly a curse on me related to ovens as this is the 4th oven in 16 years in houses. Each one pulling antics like this until we gave up/it stopped working.  Perhaps I should have heeded the warning from the gypsies after all.


Made a cheese turkey. Because we all need a cheese turkey in our lives.


Did the deconstructed turkey again but used the Martha Stewart Bacon Herb Roasted Turkey Breast recipe and just put the butter mixture under the skin of each piece.  Did the Pumpkin Cornbread Sausage stuffing from last year and Pioneer Woman’s Thanksgiving Stuffing for the traditionalists. Made the cranberry sauce from my practice Thanksgiving post, Ina Garten’s Honey Orange Glazed Carrots and mashed and sweet potatoes. And buttered noodles, because my kids still eat no food.


Yep, that’s two can shaped cranberry lumps. That my kids will eat.  And Bobby Flay’s Fall Sangria. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It definitely has a lot of fall flavors and is very pretty.


Did the tables with this cute runner from Kitch Studios,

Lots of fall colors, cute teensy vases from POSH (that’s like Fishs Eddy to you New Yorkers), flowers buried in fresh cranberries, and of course, chocolate turkeys.


A good time was had by all.

DSC_0144Especially this dapper gentleman,


Who Skunk the Cat could not bring himself to acknowledge.


Someone just needs to be the cutest thing in the house all the time. #selfabsorbedcat

For dessert I wimped out (new job people! No time for baking). And besides, when I have the head baker from Pastries So Tasty living next door, I’m not going to do apple and blueberry pies any better. But I can pour cheese and caramel popcorn into a bowl like nobody’s business. Just like the Pilgrims did.


No one complained. Packed up leftovers in these containers I made with Avery labels at their design site.


Super easy to use, I highly recommend it. There’s lots of pre-made designs to choose from or you can design your own (FORESHADOWING!!!).

So that was Thursday.  By Friday at 3:00, this was happening


Theme on this tree (family room) is red, gold and music.

DSC_0176 DSC_0168 DSC_0180Front room skinny tree is decked in green and silver,

And the basement tree is an homage to the upcoming Star Wars VII movie. I assume you all have your tickets already like we do. Right? *crickets*   #Nerdfoiles


We made the garland using Avery labels and silver cord. I’m telling you, it is ridiculously easy. You’ll see this again in upcoming posts (MORE FORESHADOWING!!!!).

And finally, The Simp…..sons Christmas Village.  “Um, Dasher, Dancer….Prancer, Nixon…Comet, Cupid…Donna Dixon?”  “Sit down Simpson”


Jealous, much?

I hope everyone gets to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season. I’ll be back with some treat ideas in the near future. With labels!!


Fall Fall and a Little More Fall

So many Honeycrisp apples.  Decided to do an apple based dinner.  And dessert.  But no, no apple dessert because despite cleaning out the kitchen benches to allow me to see all the pans,

leading me to believe I, in fact, owned ALL the pans, I did not have the right size pan for the apple cake I wanted to make.  Sure I could have substituted a different pan, but I didn’t. Because, math.

So dinner went on as planned otherwise with Cider Braised Chicken with Spiced Butternut Squash from How Sweet It Is.  I’ll be totally honest, I was not loving how this smelled before it went in the oven. Really strong.  So much so I was texting guests to say “I’m not sure about this so manage your expectations”.  But how dare I doubt Jessica at How Sweet It Is.  This was delicious. I didn’t use the mushrooms because mushrooms and I are not friends. But you go ahead and add them if you like.


And as a side I did my standard Apple Walnut Salad. This is very versatile salad.  You can add almost any crunchy vegetable you like. If you don’t like blue cheese, leave it off, or substitute with goat cheese or maybe even ricotta salata.  Whatevs.

Everyday Apple Walnut Salad
3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP maple syrup
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP dijon mustard
Pinch of salt and pepper
Bag of your favorite lettuce (I use Romaine)
1/2 bag of baby spinach
2 Honeycrisp apples, cored and diced
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup crumble blue cheese (optional for the haters)
Any other crunchy vegetable you want (celery, shredded carrots, jicama)

Mix first 5 ingredients in a jar and shake to make dressing.  Combine the remaining salad ingredients in a bowl and toss with the dressing.

So about that dessert. Having softened 12 tablespoons of butter before my discovery of my need to go to TJ Maxx/Homegoods to get a 10 inch non-springform cake pan (I HAVE to, I have no choice!), I searched for other recipes that needed 12 tablespoons of softened butter. And lo’ and behold, Cookies and Cups comes through again with Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Salty Butterscotch Sauce.


I didn’t have time to make the sauce, so I just melted some Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Sauce and poured in on top. I don’t think anyone stormed out in protest.

And the Halloween Block Party 2015 went off without a hitch.  I made The Pioneer Woman’s totally 80’s Bacon Appetizer. Because who doesn’t want a warm cheese coated bacon wrapped cracker on a cool fall day.  No one, no one doesn’t want that (hmm?).  There was also mummy wrapping,


pinatas, DSC_1024 fear factor,


tug of war,


and bobbing for donuts.


We had it all.  Just like Bogey and Bacall (the kids love that reference).  But mostly, we had live action Hungry Hungry Hippos.

You wish you lived here. You can admit it.

Next up, Halloween decor faves. Happy Thursday.


A Nod to Phineas and Ferb

In the last week before school started, the boys lamented that we hardly did anything this summer.  I think all the blog posts that precede this one might disagree.

Nonetheless, for this last week, we jammed in some swimming, tennis, multiple birthday/pool parties, Pizza Night, trying out new instruments –

piano FullSizeRender

Visiting with cousins


And, on the very last day, when surely no more fun could be had in the last throes of summer – Wizard World Comic Con!!!!

Meet the Nerdfoiles:








Ok.  Geekfest over.  What did we make for this last hurrah?

Drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper over halved cherry and grape tomatoes (from Mbork garden) and sprinkled with rosemary (from yours truly’s garden) and slow roasted them in a 275 degree oven.  Toasted slices of baguette, topped with provolone in a 350 oven and then topped with the tomatoes.


And this salad,  THIS SALAD.


This salad could be anything it wants to be if it just puts its mind to it.  Add Asian flank steak, chicken, shrimp or whatever protein you desire and it’s dinner.  Otherwise it is quite a side to grilled chicken.  It can be served room temp or cold so it would be good for a late summer block party.

Asian Noodle Salad
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Foodie with Family.  Serves 6 with some leftovers for lunch.

For the Dressing
1 whole Lime, Juiced
8 TBSP olive oil
8 TBSP low sodium soy sauce
3 TBSP toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 TBSP chopped or minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1  Jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 large handful fresh parsley, chopped

For the Salad
1/2 package linguine, cooked al dente (seriously, don’t overcook) rinsed and cooled – -if doing ahead toss with a dash of sesame oil and refrigerate.  Both PW and FwF called for a full pound of pasta, but I thought it was a bit much for our crew.
2/3 bag of coleslaw mix (or you can chop up 1/2 a head each of Napa and purple cabbage)
1 clamshell or 10 oz bag baby spinach
1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper thinly sliced
4 green onions, white and light green parts, sliced
1 hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
6 TBSP toasted sesame seeds

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake, shake, shake until it’s all combined.

Toss all salad ingredients except sesame seeds in a bowl and toss with dressing until fully dressed (you may not need all the dressing).  Top with sesame seeds.  You could also add some peanuts or cashews if desired.

And for dessert:


Rainbow Krispie Treats

6 cups Fruity Pebbles
6 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup butter, plus more for pan
20 oz. mini marshmallows

Butter a 9×13 pan and butter a piece of parchment paper cut so there is overhang on the sides of the pan.    Melt butter over medium low heat in a large saucepan.   Once butter is melted, add marshmallows and stir until fully melted.  Add in cereal and stir until combined.   Plop it all in dish and using a butter covered spatula or the the actual wrappers from the butter, press into the pan until all flat.   Once cool, lift sides of parchment to remove and cut into uniform squares.  Use a protractor if you have to, they’ll be ruined if not uniform.  No, not really.

All in all, a really fun week to end the summer.  In between all these activities, we MAY have watched some American Ninja Warrior and played a few video games.  Someone was very tired out by all that.


Happy Back-to-School week everyone. See you on the playground.


Vacation’s All I Ever Wanted

Except now I’m exhausted from all the vacationing. We rented a house on the lake in Indiana and it was lovely.


There was beach time (ahem, strike a pose)


Bowling time (cold, rainy day)


Rollerskating time.


BIG waves (well, for Lake Michigan).


Up to no good at the beach time.


Digging holes.


Spotted an elusive beach gnome in one of the holes.


Just down the street, an American Ninja Warrior-like park. Big M as Kacy Catanzaro!

DSC_0229 DSC_0212


But from this blogger’s perspective, most of all, it had a really fully stocked kitchen which is unusual in a rental.  Silicone basting brush – check. Juicer – check.  Three colanders, one ginormous – check.  I wanted for nothing.

So here are a few things that were on the menu for the week:

Smitten Kitchen’s Tomato Sausage Risotto which is a go-to dish to serve a lot of people. I use turkey Italian sausage to lighten it up a bit. Add 1/2 to every ingredient to serve 4 adults and 2 girls who are good eaters.


Cobb Salad with Pioneer Woman’s Homemade Ranch Dressing


4 cooked boneless chicken breasts. You can cook them any way you want, but this method from thekitchn really works for salads.
16 oz. bacon, cooked crisp
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh peas (hint, Trader Joes has them in the refrigerated section)
3 hard boiled eggs
1 medium red onion, diced.
2 avocados, diced
Cooked corn kernels (good use for left-over corn on the cob)
1 head Romaine lettuce
1 head/clamshell butter lettuce
1 head iceberg lettuce
Blue cheese crumbles (optional)

Arrange all lettuce in bowl or platter. Toss with a little of the ranch dressing.   Arrange all the ingredients in rows on the lettuce and drizzle with a little more dressing.  I serve the blue cheese crumbles on the side as not everyone like blue cheese in this particular vacation house.

From BevCooks, Seared Steak with Chimichurri Sauce.  I didn’t serve it with polenta, instead roasted a bunch of fingerling potatoes, halved, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast at 400 for about 30 minutes, flipping half way through. Forget to take picture.  To compensate, here are the sauce and marinade that I made ahead before we left.


Also featured in that picture is ginger syrup for the Ginger Beergaritas from How Sweet It Is.  Tasted like a margarita soda. Yum.


We packed up this group of cousins and headed up the road to see the lake-adjacent house of my cousins. Showing up with 6 kids in tow, Tessa had this response:


We had a great time, great meal of turkey burgers, regular burgers, brats and as a side I made The Pioneer Woman’s Pasta Ai Quattro Formaggio, otherwise known as four-cheese, clothespin-on-the-aorta, mac and cheese.


Really a very simple dish when using Trader Joe’s 4 Cheese Italian blend. I make it often as a weeknight side. I also made a peach crumble from The Kitchn’s Make a Crumble from Any Fruit recipe.

It got a little dark to get too many pictures, but as least we got some fire pit action in.


And the song McNamara’s Band MAY have been played. And there MAY have a been a parade with tupperware instruments. However, in the interest that anyone may have in running for Supreme Court justice or other public office someday, we’ll keep that video just between us cousins.

There was card playing for money, natch.



And some pool time.


And this creepy, Scooby-Doo-like abandoned park named Canada Playground. This is Indiana’s way of saying “Hey Canada, maybe if you’d stop giving away health care you could step up your parks and rec maintenance!” Note it also says no dogs allowed. Because you wouldn’t want to mess up the facilities.


All in all, a success at Beachwalk Resort.


Now, one more day until I’m back to the life where there is much less joyful jumping.

But not before I made everyone one of these Birthday Cake Milkshakes. There are lots of different riffs on these out there, but I think using frosting makes for a better texture than the ones I’ve done with cake mix.


1.5 Quarts of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
8 oz vanilla frosting from a can
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 – 1 cup milk (depending on how thick you would like the shake).
Sprinkles.  Always sprinkles.
Extra frosting for the glasses

Blend first 4 ingredients in blender to desired milkshakiness.  Rub vanilla frosting on the rim of each glass.  Put sprinkles on a plate and turn the cup to coat rim in sprinkles. They can be any color or size, I just had Fourth of July nonpareils on hand.  Pour in milkshake and serve to this happy camper.


I mustache you, was this delicious?



Change of Dinner Plans

People.  It is May 30th.  It is 45 degrees outside.   I had to get some wooly socks on because my feet were cold.   Wooly socks!

The La Grange Pet Parade (sans dog pets – boo to dog flu) went on in the rain, and the temperature wasn’t bad.


But it took a mean, mean turn a couple of hours later. So, food plans that I had will be for another day.  Sorry summer stone fruit salad.  Sorry grilled chicken pesto pizza. Corn on the cob, I hardly knew ye.

I had cooked chicken, so I made Pioneer Woman’s Chipotle Chicken Chili.   I made a couple of changes however.  I doubled the tomatoes and reduced the beans by one can (the husband is not a fan).  I used 2 chipotle peppers and it was pretty spicy. Served it with corn bread from TJ’s boxed mix.  And over pasta.   Drummer boy was pleased.


Skunk, however, is not pleased with this window-shutting weather and has retreated to his Christmas pillow.


It’s too cool for cats (name that band!).

At least with the windows closed we won’t be annoying our neighbors with the 4 second delay between the Blackhawks game on here versus there, thus pre-screaming the goals before they happen. Go Hawks!

Thanksgiving Wrap Up

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Cheers!


Oh relax, its a pomegranate/apple juice spritzer. But Cousin Minecraft’s face does have a Dorothy Parker Algonquin Round Table “bored with you all” kind of look to him.

The Table

Because this is the smallest of McNamara/Guilfoile/Kuhn holidays, what with people going to various in-laws’ houses, we can, for this one-time only, fit at one table.

These are my new dishes that Kevin got me for my birthday.   My other ones are almost 20 years old and are starting to show their age.   I’ll still keep the ones that aren’t chipped, but I thought it was time to class things up around here.


The aforementioned salted butter:


The Final Menu


The Gravy  While the gravy made with the turkey was good, it was not that different from the gravy made two weeks ago and frozen.  Therefore, that gravy wins as it doesn’t require sweating over the stove at the last minute until your previously flat bangs turn into water buffalo horns.

The Turkey from Epicurious.  Was done even faster than the recipe said (maybe because I only did one pan, not two).

The Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing

The Salad.  I used the dressing from this Brussels sprout slaw from The View From Great Island but poured it over butter lettuce, toasted walnuts, shredded carrots and dried cranberries.

Also Colleen & Mitch’s cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, Mom’s stuffing, corn and fruit.  So for those counting, yes, that is 3 potato dishes and 2 stuffings.  For 13 people.   Irish Thanksgiving.

Dessert Table

Chocolate Pie from the Pioneer Woman.  Guitar Boy’s comment:  My life has been changed forever.   So I think he liked it.

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats   I’d seen so many food bloggers comment on Smitten Kitchen’s recipe that I had to try them.  Plus, Drummer Boy doesn’t really like cake, pie, pudding or candy which leaves him a bit stranded in the McNamara dessert oasis.

Apple Pie – from Kirschbaum’s bakery.   Why mess with greatness.

Cranberry Orange Scones from Trader Joes – because GG likes them.

And Aunt Colleen brought brownies.   Because you can’t have only 4 desserts for 13 people!


Who Was There?


But Really, Who Was the Cutest Person There?


Why it was Colleen and Mitch’s grand-nephew, Sweet Baby D.

So what now?

Christmas is going up.  I’ll come back with a post about some of my favorite Christmas items a little later.  With respect to recipes on deck, I’ve got to take something to Rob and Nancy’s most awesome white elephant Holiday Party that we look forward to every year.  But my company’s party is the same night, so it’s going to have to be cookies that I can pre-wrap on the tray I’m giving them:


And then Kevin can just bring the cookies with him when he picks me up at the train from the company party.  Note, the tray is not our white elephant gift as it is not impractical, inappropriate, useless or hilarious. I’ll let you know what we gave/received after the party.

Here are some of the possible choices on the cookies though:

The Pioneer Woman’s Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

I’ve made them before and they are quite tasty.  However, the Chocolate Pistachio Sablés from Bon Appetit look delicious and fancy (you can tell they are fancy because of l’accent aigu over the e).    Food always tastes better with an accent aigu or accent grave.  It’s a fact.  I’m sure it’s on Wikipedia somewhere. Or it will be shortly.

If I find myself slacking off and sleeping more than 4 hours a night, I might do these wonderful, but time-intensive, Lemon Wreaths from Martha Stewart.

Now go get your weekend on!






Welcome to October

Well, it’s official. I have more Halloween storage bins than Christmas storage bins (and I have a loooooot of Christmas storage bins). So it only took 2 days to get all the Halloween stuff up with help from my 10 and 8 year-old Halloween gravestone-placement consultants. I wanted to share some of my favorite décor items.

These are my new platters. I love, love, love them. I would marry them, but I don’t think they could get all the Halloween bins down from the attic with the efficiency that Kevin can. They are from Cost Plus World Market online:


Hello gorgeous! From TJ Maxx/HomeGoods:


Candles from Martha Stewart for Grandinroad a few years ago.  Ghostie and pumpkin from TJ Maxx/HomeGoods:


Nosferatu painting in the bathroom – from Ebay, can’t read the artist’s name very well anymore, looks like it says Renee Backer:


Pillows for the kitchen table bench from TJ Maxx/HomeGoods (are you sensing a theme here?): image

My favorite Halloween picture of Guitar Boy and Fake Sister (they were 4 & 5).  Frame from TJ Maxx/HomeGoods:


My favorite Halloween picture of Drummer Boy.  Frame from Kohls:


 Here’s what the outside of the house looks like during the day:


And at night:


Soooo, it’s pretty clear that I have a TJ Maxx/HomeGoods “problem” that needs to be confronted.

Moving on.

What food is being made to celebrate this magical season you may ask?   Well, it depends.  Are we talking about the 9th Avenue Halloween Block Party?  Allison’s Costume-Mandatory 6th Birthday Party?  The High School/College/Old Friends We Never See Halloween Pizza Night Open House?  Or are we talking about actual Halloween (on a Friday – woot!)?  It is a crowded Field Notes party planner, that’s for sure.

Food on deck:

Crack Dip with Tomatoes from Whiteonricecouple.com

(see picture from prior post)

White Pizza Dip from Howsweeteats (my newest blog obsession)

Apple Cider Sangria from Howsweeteats (see above)

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies from The Pioneer Woman  (who is now designing her own line of cookware – jealous!)

Candied Pumpkin Seeds from Healthygreenkitchen

Cheddar Chive Cheese Pumpkin from Jamhands

Creamy Tomato Soup from Howsweeteats (really, I need to stop bothering this woman).

And in case you were wondering, Guitar Boy will be going to various parties as a crypt keeper/angel of death (need to get multiple uses out of our scythe!) and trick or treating as Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy. Drummer Boy will be a faceless specter at the parties and the 10th Doctor Who for Halloween.   Because out here, one costume is simply not enough.

Where could these kids get their sense of Halloween excess from?  I wonder.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Too Many ‘Maters

If your summer garden decided to explode with tomatoes (as many of my friends’, family’s and co-workers’ gardens did) I thought I’d share some recipe “hits” from the last week or two of summer tomatoes. All of these work best with fresh, summer tomatoes, but you might be able to pull off the pasta sauce, the tart and the dip in the winter too with store-bought grape tomatoes.

Baked Tomato Sauce from Smitten Kitchen

Made this with both red and yellow cherry tomatoes from my CEO’s garden. It was delicious (not just saying that because he’s my boss)! I also added an additional clove of garlic to the breadcrumb mixture and once it was tossed with the pasta, topped with a chiffonade** of basil and a tablespoon of parmesan.


Sorry, we we’re hungry from being at the pool, so no “after” picture, just “gone”.

Crack Dip with Grape Tomatoes from Whiteonricecouple

I had even more yellow grape tomatoes from the aforementioned CEO bounty. This was as delicious as their website advertised.


Shortly thereafter at the Rehor’s pool (nom, nom, nom):

Tomato Burrata Baguette from Gouda Monster

If you happen to have ombre heirloom tomatoes, which are currently $179.99/pound at Whole Foods, then you will have something as beautiful as the picture. But I’m here to tell you that whatever mutant but beautiful summer tomatoes you have will work just fine (see this interesting video “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” from Intermarche in France and what a difference it makes to not waste non-perfect produce).

Slice the bread a little thinner than just in half, otherwise it is very hard to eat unless you are capable of opening your jaw Jim-Carrey-in-Mask style. Depending on the thickness of your chosen loaf, I might even suggest thirds and then use the middle, non-crust piece to make breadcrumbs. After toasting the bread, I spread the burrata on and put it back in the oven for about 2-3 minutes to get it extra melty. Used sea salt on top of the tomatoes. I’ve made this twice as a starter, and each time Kevin said, “Why did you even make anything else for dinner?”

Grilled Cherry or Grape Tomatoes  or just Tomato Vierge Spread adapted from Prasino’s in LaGrange

Grilling Option:

In a large bowl, mix 3 cups whole yellow and red cherry tomatoes, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (I use a mix of basil, chives and parsley), ½ teaspoon of onion powder and 1 tablespoon chopped garlic.

Let sit about 30 minutes. While they sit, soak wooden skewers in water. Thread tomatoes on skewers and place on grill (with whatever you are otherwise grilling).   Grill about 15 minutes or until charred. Eat as a side or serve with toasted bread and whatever else gets you crackalackin (buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese,  more basil, red onion, etc.). You can use the remaining marinade to drizzle over the bread.

Overnight or Baking Option:

In a large bowl, mix 3 cups halved or quartered red and yellow cherry tomatoes, (½ cup extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (I use a mix of basil, chives, parsley), 2 tablespoons capers, drained (or ½ tsp onion powder) and 1 tablespoon chopped garlic.

When I have time, I just let this sit overnight in the fridge and serve as a spread for bread (see above). If you don’t have time, I would suggest cooking it in a 375 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes to meld flavors. Then toast some French or Italian bread slices and use the mixture as a spread.

Tomato Tart from The Pioneer Woman

This is a nice little starter when grilling steaks.

Heirloom Tomato Stack Salad adapted from Cooking Light

You know me, if it said “Avocado and Thing” on the menu I’d say, “Mmmm, that sounds good.”  However, I am one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap, so I substitute parsley. I also lay the cut tomatoes on a layer of paper towels to drain a little, otherwise this ends up a really runny mess on the plate.  Keeping with that theme, I also use 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and sometimes add an additional tablespoon of sour cream after blending the dressing if it seems too thin. For the record, I have never been able to get the avocado into that cute little dice you see in Cooking Light’s picture. I tell myself that is because the food stylist was clearly using an un-ripe, hard avocado and therefore mine, with my lumpy pieces of avocado, is much more delicious. I am comfortable basking in the lies I tell myself.

Happy end of summer everyone!

**To the haters—back off. It’s not fancy, it just means you stack the basil leaves on top of one another, roll the basil leaves up and slice them into the thin strips. And no, I don’t have a special tool for that.