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.

A Cozy Fall Dinner Party

So often food connects us to memories or people. We have a favorite dish our mother made for us as children or remember a special breakfast our grandparents made only when we visited them. We highlight memorable meals with friends and memorialize the trips we’ve taken based on what we ate.

We make a connection to the people we care about through food. It doesn’t matter one bit if you consider yourself a ‘foodie,’ or have no idea how to get around the in the kitchen.  What we find is that the food really didn’t matter all that much, ultimately it’s about the gathering.

My aunt, whose recipe for mashed potatoes is included in this menu,  understood the simple pleasures of a good meal, good friends, the decadence of a sweet-smelling candle and a good piece of chocolate. She never missed an opportunity to gather with her friends and family. She loved to cook and was a natural generous host. I think of her often when I’m in my own kitchen. Her food was thoughtful and inspiring while in the same breath completely approachable.

As the holiday season quickly approaches and so many of us steel ourselves for the onslaught of gatherings and events, here is an opportunity to make a meal for friends and family that feels like a warm hug on a cold blustery evening.

This isn’t a fancy menu; just good, simple food for a cozy evening. Grilled tri-tip steak is marinated in soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic with a splash of sriracha resulting in tender flavorful meat. Mashed potatoes get a makeover with sour cream and cream cheese, then baked to give the potatoes a twice-baked texture. Your guests will be fighting over the last spoonful, I can guarantee it. And finally, a big spinach salad full of fruit, tangy goat cheese and delicious caramelized onions, not only surprise you but add big delicious flavor.

Dessert is decadent but so easy. Homemade mocha pudding literally comes together in 10 minutes but will wow your guests. It is rich and chocolaty with a hint of espresso. A dollop of whipped cream and a few berries softens the richness of the dessert and makes it so special.

Don’t worry too much about the perfect centerpiece or matching napkins. Just set the table, turn some music on and invite people over. Sit around the table long after the meal ends sharing stories and laughing until your sides hurt. The dishes can wait until morning, just enjoy being at the table, in the moment. 

Grilled Tri-Tip Steak

  • 2-3 pounds tri-tip
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil and sriracha. Whisk to combine. Liberally salt and pepper the tri-tip steaks on both sides of the meat. Submerge the meat in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate at least 3 hours, longer if possible.

Preheat outdoor grill to medium-high. Place tri-tip steak on the grill. Sear each side for 5 – 8 minutes per side.

Lower grill to medium-low heat and continue to grill for 6-10 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 130 degrees in the center of the steak. Tri-tip steaks can range in thickness. I suggest using a meat thermometer to check the temperature to ensure the meat does not overcook. The total cooking time will be about 20-25 minutes. 

Meredith’s Potatoes

  • 5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups full-fat sour cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon green onions, thinly sliced
  • Dash of smoked paprika

Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Boil potatoes over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes until potatoes are fork tender. Drain water from potatoes and return them to the pot. Turn the heat back to medium and cook for one to two minutes until moisture evaporates. Turn heat off.

Using a hand mixer or a potato masher, begin to mash the potatoes. Mix in the sour cream and cream cheese and continue stirring and mixing until the potatoes are smooth and the ingredient are well-combined. Salt and pepper to the potatoes liberally. Taste to see if they need more salt.

Generously butter baking dish. Add potatoes to the buttered dish, smoothing the surface. Sprinkle with a dash of smoked paprika. Bake potatoes in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Garnish with slivered green onions. Serve immediately.

*Potatoes can be made ahead of time. Instead of baking, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Allow the potatoes to come to room temperature while oven preheats.

Harvest Salad with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 8 oz. container organic baby spinach
  • 1 honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 6 oz. container fresh blackberries (or raspberries)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

Maple Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Start by caramelizing the onion. In a medium saucepan, drizzle two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over thinly sliced onions. Give the onions a quick stir and sprinkle with kosher salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Stir every couple minutes until the onions are richly brown and condensed down by about half, usually about 30 minutes. After the first 10 minutes of cooking, remove the lid and continue to stir the onions.

In a large bowl, layer the honey crisp apple, blackberries, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds and slivered almonds over baby spinach. Top everything with the caramelized onions. Drizzle with maple balsamic dressing and mix to combine all ingredients. Serve immediately.

Herb Butter

  • ½ cup salted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs such as Italian parsley, basil and rosemary
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Coarse sea salt

In a small bowl use a fork to mix softened butter with fresh herbs and lemon zest. Sprinkle with coarse salt. On a piece of parchment paper, place the butter in the center of the paper. Wrap the parchment around the butter forming a cylinder. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, unwrap butter from parchment and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Chocolate Mocha Pudding

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Sweetened heavy whipping cream
  • Raspberries

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, instant espresso and cornstarch. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and egg yolks. Turn the heat to medium and pour the milk mixture over the sugar mixture, stirring to combine. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to boil and thicken, about five minutes. Allow the pudding to boil an additional minute before removing from the heat. Stir in vanilla.

To make whipped cream, whip one cup heavy whipping cream with a hand mixer. For additional flavor add one tablespoon powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla extract. Store extras in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

*As soon as the pudding is finished thickening and the vanilla extract is stirred in, place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap over the pudding. This prevents a skin from forming and keeps the pudding decadently smooth.

To serve, divide pudding into individual cups. Top with sweetened whipped cream and a few fresh raspberries.

Maple Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate nutrient dense foods into my family’s diet. And while I have no problem eating salads, soups and smoothies for every meal; my family has a different idea of what that looks like.

For all the cooking I do, my kids are still kids; they would prefer to dunk all their vegetables in ranch dressing and that’s on a good day. They regularly refuse the dinners I make and complain that everything is ‘gross’ and ‘looks weird.’

And that’s ok, because I know they’ll grow out of it eventually. I keep making the food I think we should be eating and shrugging my shoulders when it’s refused. Sometimes they eat a banana and call it dinner, sometimes they grudgingly try the food in front of them and surprise surprise, at least 50 percent of the time they end up liking what they initially deemed inedible.

I tend to rely heavily on pastas and grains for quick weeknight dinners. Pasta tossed with a little pork or turkey Italian sausage and some kind of vegetable hidden under parmesan cheese is quick, easy and usually everyone at the table will eat it.

But in the last year or so, I’ve tried to get away from that as much, looking to help my family (and myself) eat more vegetables, especially at dinner time. I still love a one-pot meal, but I’m finding more and more that a flavorful roasted vegetable is just as satisfying and so much better for our overall health than that pasta dish.

These roasted sweet potatoes are the perfect crowd-pleaser and easy weeknight side-dish. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A and C, potassium and fiber. Tossed in a little pure maple syrup and a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce the result is a sweet and spicy ‘french fry’ with just a hint of smoky flavor. This recipe works well with pork and chicken, wrapped up in a tortilla as a base for vegetable tacos or saved for morning when you can enjoy them with a fried egg.

Maple Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

·         3 large sweet potatoes, cut into ½ inch wedges

·         2 tablespoons olive oil

·         2 tablespoons corn starch

·         2 tablespoons maple syrup

·         1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded and finely diced

·         1-2 teaspoons adobo sauce

·         1 teaspoon coarse salt

·         ½ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment pepper. Wash, peel and dice sweet potatoes. The thinner you cut the potatoes, the quicker they cook. Thicker potatoes keep their shape a little better, but take longer to roast.

In a large bowl, toss sweet potatoes in olive oil and cornstarch. Allow the potatoes to rest for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Seed and dice the pepper. Drizzle the maple syrup, chipotle pepper and reserved adobo sauce over the sweet potatoes. Salt and pepper the potatoes and mix well. Spread the sweet potatoes evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the edges of the sweet potatoes are crispy and golden brown. Make sure to flip the potatoes half way through the cooking time to ensure they cook evenly.

Save the remaining chipotle peppers in a container and stash in the refrigerator or freezer.

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Waffles

It feels a little like a light switch was flipped and we went from summer to fall in the blink of an eye. The mornings and evenings are crisp and cool and everywhere I look the trees and foliage are making their transformation from emerald green to deep hues of red, orange and yellow. I love this time of year.

And because I just can’t resist a good pumpkin recipe in the fall, I had to take a stab at some pumpkin waffles. I’ve bought the Trader Joe’s waffle mix for years, stocking up on a few boxes every fall. And while they’re delicious, my kids were hit and miss in liking them, not to mention I don’t live anywhere close to a Trader Joe’s.

So, with a weekend ahead full of soccer and football, I decided what we needed was a warm, cozy and little bit decadent breakfast to get us through. I’ve made overnight waffles dozens of times and they are literally the easiest way to get delicious, light but crisp waffles. You mix up most of the batter the night before, and really it takes just five minutes. Throw it in the fridge and in the morning, when everyone is ready to eat, mix in the last two ingredients and you’re ready for waffles.

I stirred in pumpkin puree and a few spices and the result was absolutely delicious. Light and fluffy with a hint of pumpkin pie flavor, my entire family gobbled these up.

For a special addition, make honey cinnamon butter to top your waffles. Simply take a softened stick of salted butter. Mix in two tablespoons honey and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Set that out with some warm maple syrup for a breakfast everyone will beg you to make again and again.

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Waffles

Night Before:

• 1/2 cup warm water

• 1 tablespoon yeast

• 1/2 cup melted butter

• 2 cups milk (2%)

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 2/3 cups pumpkin puree

• 2 tablespoons sugar

• 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

• ½ teaspoon cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

The Next Day:

• 2 eggs, beaten

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the yeast and water in a large mixing bowl and let stand for a few minutes. Stir to make sure the yeast dissolves. Melt the butter in the microwave. Combine the butter with the milk, pumpkin, salt, vanilla, spices and sugar. Test with your finger to make sure the mixture has cooled to lukewarm, then stir it into the dissolved yeast mixture. Add the flour and stir until a thick, shaggy dough is formed and there is no more visible flour.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and throw it in the refrigerator. The batter will double or triple in bulk as it rises.

The next morning, beat the eggs together and add them to the batter along with the baking soda, stirring until completely combined.

Make the waffles according to your waffle maker’s instructions, cooking until the waffles are golden-brown. Serve with cinnamon honey butter and maple syrup. Leftovers can be frozen. Warm them in a toaster oven to reheat.

Pot Roast with Tomatoes, Wine and Herbs de Provence

We had the rare weekend with almost nothing on the calendar. An out-of-town soccer game was cancelled, no birthday parties or commitments popped up on the calendar leaving; it was just our little family of five for the entire weekend.

We did the regular weekend things: worked in the yard, ran to the grocery store, watched a little football but it was all done at a gloriously slower pace than usual and I could feel us all take a collective breath as we shrugged off a busy and stressful week. We need these quiet weekends sometimes. I forget so easily how good rest is. As our weekend wrapped up and we hadn’t left the house all day, I knew I wanted a meal as quintessentially slow and relaxed as our weekend had been.

This isn’t a fancy meal; just good, simple food for a cozy evening. The humble pot roast is jazzed up with a big glug of red wine and herbs resulting in tender flavorful meat. Slow cooked in the oven or your crockpot, the meat literally falls apart as you lift it from the pot. Drizzle some of the juices from the pot over the meat once you slice it for extra flavor and tenderness. Mashed potatoes or polenta are excellent side dishes to go with this recipe but you could also halve a pound of red potatoes and throw them in with the roast and you have an easy one-pot meal.

Pot Roast with Tomatoes, Wine and Herbs de Provence

• 4-5 pound bone-in chuck roast

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 1 tablespoon butter

• 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

• 3 carrots, chopped

• 3 stalks celery, chopped

• 4 cloves garlic, chopped

• 28 ounces can organic tomatoes

• 1 cup beef stock

• 1 1/2 cups red wine

• 1 bay leaf

• 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

• 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided

• 2 teaspoons black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat.

Liberally salt and pepper chuck roast on all side (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper on each side). Sear the chuck roast on both sides, cooking for about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove meat from the pot and set aside. Sauté the onion, carrots and celery in the pot, adding an additional tablespoon olive oil to the pan if necessary, scraping up the little brown bits. Salt and pepper the veggies, cooking for 5-8 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add chuck roast back into the pot. Add the tomatoes, wine bay leaf and herbs de Provence to the pot. The liquid should cover the veggies and about half the meat. Cover the pot with the lid and put in the oven. Cook for about 4 to 5 hours until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone.

To serve, pull the meat off the bone, and serve with a generous spoonful of the pan drippings and vegetables from the pot.

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).