Homemade Vanilla Syrup

Homemade vanilla syrup is one of my favorite gifts to make.Wrapped up in pretty little glass bottles and a ribbon, this syrup feels so special.  

In reality, it’s just three ingredients and comes together in 10 minutes flat. Even better, the syrup has a rich vanilla flavor perfect for stirring into coffee or hot chocolate or even drizzling over oatmeal on cold mornings. It’s the perfect hostess or teacher gift. You could even slip a jar into the stocking of the coffee-lover in your life.

Homemade Vanilla Syrup

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water

In a medium pot, combine sugar and water over low heat. Slice the vanilla beans and scrape out the pulp into the sugar and water. Add the vanilla beans as well. Stir with a whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until syrup is condensed by about a third. Turn heat off and allow syrup to cool completely. Line a jar with cheesecloth and pour syrup through cheese cloth to catch the larger pieces of vanilla pulp. Remove vanilla beans and discard.

Pour syrup into individual four-ounce jars. Store in refrigerator until ready to gift. This batch makes about eight jars of syrup.

Winter Cobb Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash

This is a big long recipe and it would be easy to be intimidated but I promise you; it’s easy. And once you make the different components of this delicious salad, you have meals all week long. 

I’m not usually one for salads in the winter. I don’t know why, but I usually lean towards warm and comforting soups to get my vegetables in, but this winter cob salad is a game-changer. Roasted squash, tart pomegranate seeds, creamy avocado and tangy pickled onions work so well together. It’s a recipe that I’ve made over and over again and we’re barely to December. I like it because it’s a one-pot (or really one-bowl) recipe. Throw all the ingredients together and you have a healthy and delicious meal.

Even better, once you have all the ingredients, you can use them in different ways. Don’t feel like a salad? No problem…eat the squash on its own with some roasted chicken. Didn’t have time to make pickled onions (or just don’t like them)? No problem. Skip them. This salad is incredible forgiving, so swap in and out what you like best.

Winter Cobb Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash

For the Squash

 2 delicata squash, washed and cut in half with seeds and pulp removed
 Zest of half a lemon 
 1 teaspoon minced garlic
 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 1 teaspoon parsley
 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
 Kosher salt and black pepper.

Cut the squash into half inch pieces. In a large ziplock bag or bowl, toss the squash in olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, parmesan cheese and a liberal pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside and allow to marinate for one hour. When ready to roast, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange squash on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure to get all the bits of parmesan cheese and lemon zest onto the tray. Roast in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, flipping the squash halfway through the cooking time. The squash is done when they begin to turn golden brown and a fork easily pierces the flesh. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the Salad

 5 ounces arugula
 Roasted delicata squash
 1 cooked chicken breast, cubed (I usually just grab a rotisserie chicken from the store and peel the skin off)
 1 honeycrisp apple, diced
 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
 2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (dried cranberries work well too)
 Pickled red onion (optional)
 Avocado, sliced

Quick Pickled Onions

 1 red onion, thinly sliced
 1 tablespoon sugar
 1 teaspoon kosher salt
 Apple Cider Vinegar
 Water

In an air-tight container, combine the red onion with the sugar and salt. Pour apple cider vinegar over the onion until they are halfway covered. Fill the container the rest of the way with water. Put the lid on and let sit on the counter for at least onehour. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Salad Dressing

 Juice of one lemon
 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
 ¼ cup white wine vinegar
 1 teaspoon dried mustard
 1 teaspoon dried parsley
 Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a measuring cup or a jar with a lid, combine ingredients. Mix well and taste to make sure it tastes to your preference. Add more salt or lemon juice as needed.

To assemble the salad, layer the squash, apple, pumpkin seeds, almonds, chicken, pomegranate seeds, pickled onions and avocado over the arugula. Garnish with kosher salt and pepper.

Drizzle the salad dressing over the salad and using two forks, toss and mix until ingredients are well-combined. Store any leftover ingredients in air-tight containers in the refrigerator. 

 

White Bean Chicken Chili

After a long weekend of many indulgences: hello Trevari rose, hello stuffing and pumpkin pie not to mention the next-day turkey sandwich of my dreams, I’m more than ready to get back to the basics of eating healthfully. It was a tasty and memorable holiday and I hope yours was too.

This week I’m prepping a big batch of white bean chicken chili. I’ve thrown out the last scraps of leftovers and I hit the grocery store for lots of fruits and vegetables. With school and work and activities back in the swing of things this week, I know a big bowl of soup at the end of a long day will be just what everyone needs.

This recipe is perfect to meal prep at the beginning of the week for an easy and healthy dinner or lunches all week. I’ve written the recipe for an instant pot, but if you don’t have one, no problem. Simply combine all the ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. At the halfway point, use two forks to break apart the chicken.

White Bean Chicken Chili

 2 chicken breasts
 ½ yellow onion, diced
 1 red bell pepper, diced
 2 carrots, diced
 1 16-ounce jar medium salsa (red or green)
 1 can green or hatch chilis
 2 13-ounce cans great northern beans
 1 16-ounce bag organic frozen corn
 1 10-ounce bag frozen riced cauliflower
 2 32-ounce boxes organic low-sodium chicken stock
 1 teaspoon all-seasoning
 1 teaspoon cumin 
 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
 Black pepper

Place two frozen chicken breasts and the jar of salsa in an instant pot. Cook on manual for 25 minutes. Release pressure and turn to sauté function. Add the diced onion, bell pepper and carrots and stir into the chicken. Use a fork to begin breaking up the chicken. After 3-5 minutes of cooking, add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on manual for another 15 minutes. Release pressure, give the soup a good stir and finish breaking up the chicken, so it is nice and shredded. Taste to make sure it doesn’t need a bit more salt. 

To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Top with slices of avocado, fresh chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime and a dollop of fat-free sour cream. Serves 6-8 generous portions.

 

Cranberry Orange Relish

 

I’ll keep my words short and to the point because I know the hustle and bustle of the day is going to take over in what feels like the blink of an eye.

Whether your house is filled to the brim with every family member in a 100-mile radius or you’re enjoying a cozy quiet Thanksgiving, I wish you a day full of good food, a moment to steal away to reflect on the year’s blessings and priceless memories that will carry you the entire year.

As I write this note, my children are running through the house treading the line between happy jovial play and wild feral animal. It’s a blurry line that they seem to cross and retreat from all day long.

I’ve spent weeks thinking about the menu for Thanksgiving and now that it’s finally here, I realize with crystal clarity that I really don’t care all that much. What I care about is those wild children, my family near and far, friends who I miss and don’t see nearly enough and this wonderful, special opportunity I have each week to share a few words and recipes in this space. I feel so lucky to gather at the table over a meal with the people I love and to share it here as I go along.

And because I can’t just let a week slip by without a recipe, I offer you my most favorite cranberry sauce. I recognize everyone seems to have a firm stance on whether they like cranberry sauce or not, but wherever you fall with your preferences, I challenge you to make this easy dish. Tart cranberries are softened with a little sugar and fresh orange juice and then mellowed with cinnamon and ginger. 

Cranberry Orange Relish, adapted from The Pioneer Woman

 12 ounces, fresh cranberries
 3/4 cups sugar
 1 tablespoon orange zest
 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange Juice
 1 cinnamon stick
 ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
 Pinch of salt

Rinse cranberries well, then place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the sugar, orange zest, orange juice, ginger and cinnamon stick. Give it a stir, then place the pan over medium-low heat. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, stirring the mixture every 5 minutes to ensure the bottom doesn’t burn. 

After 15 minutes, the cranberries should all be popped. Remove the pan from the heat. The sauce will look very liquidy, but as it cools, the sauce will thicken up significantly. After the sauce has cooled completely, you can add additional water for a thinner texture. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve the cranberry sauce at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!

Haricot Verts with Herb Butter

 I’m a firm believer a couple side dishes that show up to the Thanksgiving table need to be easy and quick. And even more importantly, they can’t take up sacred oven space. There’s enough jockeying to get all the food warm and on the table at a reasonable time.

My family insists on the same recipes for the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes every year which I‘m happy to oblige.

Tradition is tradition and I want my family to look forward to their favorite dishes. But on the flip side, I love to add a few surprises to the table as well, especially when it comes to the vegetable side dishes. 

This year I’m making haricot verts (skinny green beans) with herb butter. By mixing butter, fresh herbs and lemon juice right in the serving dish with the hot beans, nothing is simpler or more delicious. 

While the turkey rests before carving and the rest of the dishes warm up in the oven, these green beans comes together in five easy minutes. Haricot verts are quickly sautéed in a little butter with a minced shallot. A splash of water over the beans and a quick three minutes later, they are ready to be tossed with the herb butter and set on the table for dinner. Quick, easy and most importantly, wonderful.

With Thanksgiving exactly one week away, if you’re looking for inspiration for your own dinner, click the Thanksgiving tab for a slew of options that might just be perfect for your meal.

Haricot Verts with Herb Butter

 2 pounds haricot verts, washed and trimmed
 2 tablespoons shallot, minced
 4 tablespoons butter, divided
 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
 Zest of ½ lemon
 Juice of ½ lemon
 Kosher salt and ground black pepper

In a large sauté pan, sauté shallots in 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low heat until fragrant and slightly translucent, about 2 minutes. Add haricot verts to the pan and toss well to combine the butter, shallots and beans. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add ¼ cup of water to pan and cover with a lid. Allow beans to steam for 3-4 minutes until bright green, tender but not soft. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter with parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix with a fork until well-combined.

In a deep serving dish, combine the haricot verts (drain any excess water from pan before transferring beans) with the herb butter. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and a pinch of black pepper. Taste a bean to make sure they are salted enough. Garnish with another pinch of salt if necessary. Serve immediately.

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad

With much eye-rolling and shoulder shrugging, my family has finally accepted my insistence that a salad grace our Thanksgiving table. If I left it up to my husband or my brothers, we would have a square meal of all white and brown dishes: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, pumpkin pie. And not that there’s anything wrong with that (I mean come on, it’s all so delicious), but my stomach and eyes need a little variety for such a big, heavy meal. 

This year though I’m thinking this roasted delicata squash salad is going to make an appearance. Delicata squash are roasted in lemon zest, salt and pepper and a bit of good parmesan cheese until they are brown and crispy. Tossed with arugula, a honeycrisp apple, tangy goat cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries; this salad is the essence of fall in a bite. 

I love delicate squash because you don’t have to peel them. I also think they hold up a little better than other squashes when roasted. I don’t love any kind of mushy vegetable, but especially squash. I roast the delicata squash for just a few minutes and they come out crispy and golden brown; perfect for this salad.

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad

For the Squash

 2 delicata squash, washed and cut in half with seeds and pulp removed
 Zest of half a lemon
 1 teaspoon minced garlic
 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 1 teaspoon parsley
 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
 Kosher salt and black pepper.

Cut the squash into half inch pieces. In a large ziplock bag or bowl, toss the squash in olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, parmesan cheese and a liberal pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside and allow to marinate for one hour. When ready to roast, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange squash on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure to get all the bits of parmesan cheese and lemon zest onto the tray. Roast in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, flipping the squash halfway through the cooking time. The squash is done when they begin to turn golden brown and a fork easily pierces the flesh. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the Salad

 5 ounces arugula
 Roasted delicata squash
 1 honeycrisp apple, diced
 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
 2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
 2-3 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese
 Juice and zest of 1 lemon
 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 Kosher salt and black pepper

To assemble the salad, toss the arugula with the lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil in a large bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes. Layer the squash, apple, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cranberries, and goat cheese over the arugula. Garnish with kosher salt and pepper.

Apple Galette with Copper Pot Caramel Sauce

I’ve been eager to share a few fall-inspired recipes, but I was waiting for a day that really felt like fall. As I was drinking coffee this morning gazing out the window, I noticed the Poplar trees, which line our property, are beginning their transformation from emerald green to bright yellow. That was my cue; fall is officially here. It’s time to make a pot of soup, maybe a batch of pumpkin muffins and definitely an apple pie.

Except if you’re anything like me, pie just isn’t in my wheelhouse. My pies always turn out more than a little misshapen, usually a little runny and nothing like the beautiful picture that goes along with whatever recipe I’m following. I’ve found making galette’s are the perfect compromise for all of us who love pie but just can’t seem to get the hang of them.

Galette’s are a rustic dessert where instead of shaping the pie dough into a pan, you simply roll it out and fill the center with fruit. The edges of the pie crust are folded over the fruit and baked to a golden brown. The result is a tender, decadent fruit-filled dessert with no pressure to look ‘perfect.’ For special occasions, I make my own pie dough, but I’ve found a store-bought crust works just fine and makes this delicious dessert that much easier.

Apple Galette with Copper Pot Caramel Sauce

• 2 large honeycrisp apples, thinly sliced

• 1 tablespoon brown sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

• juice of half a lemon

• pinch of nutmeg

• 1 store bought pie crust

• 1 egg yolk

• 1 tablespoon raw sugar, for sprinkling

• 2 tablespoons Copper Pot caramel sauce

• vanilla ice cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll the pie dough and lay it on the lined baking sheet. In a bowl combine the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice making sure that the apples are well-coated.

Pour the apples into the center of the pie dough, leaving about two inches of dough all the way around. Carefully fold the dough up onto the apples, making a little pocket. This dessert is meant to be ‘rustic,’ no perfect edges required.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk with a tiny splash of water and brush the crust with the egg. Sprinkle with raw sugar and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. When it comes out of the oven, let it cool for a minute or two and then drizzle the entire thing in caramel sauce.

Serve with a big scoop of ice cream and as many spoons as you need. (It’s actually a huge mess if you do it that way, usually I slice it like a pizza with a scoop of ice cream for each piece).