Month: November 2015

Noah’s First Birthday!

Our little baby (our young buck) finally turned one. I knew with his birthday being so close to Thanksgiving that I did not want to continue a harvest theme… which lead me to think about what else was seasonal. Here in the northern midwest, hunting season is well under way. Perfect! Time to take the mounted rifle off of the wall.


It’s kind of a tradition to go big on the first birthday. I really don’t know why, because they’re not going to remember it. But the rest of us do. Actually, using so much of our hunting and camping stuff made it pretty easy and a lot of fun. We set up camp, starting with the front porch.


Welcome to Camp Noah

We had a small chili cook off in the lodge (aka ‘the dining room’), which was tasty and very appropriate (at least for the hunters I know). There were four entries, and I am sorry to say I did not get a good picture of them… but you can just picture four pots of chili. And the winner went to (dramatic pause) my sister, aka ‘the chef’ because it was really good. (I voted for her chili and I had an entry myself!) I also thought it was a good idea to use all of the cast iron I could find in my cupboards to set the table with toppings and sides for the chili.


Camouflage was everywhere- even on the S’more inspired cake.



I love dressing for the theme.


We set up camp in the living room.


Using our undecorated Christmas tree was a nice touch (thanks mom). We also tried to camouflage the TV, with a deer.


I saw this really cute photo op on Pinterest. So naturally I had to replicate it. (Side note: If you are new to my blog, I have a big thing about photograph opportunities at the parties I host.) And now that I have a blog I love to post the pictures all over the internet, because that’s the kind of friend/mother/daughter/sister/aunt/wife I am.

Happy Birthday Noah! We love you!


Happy Thanksgiving!

There is so much to be thankful for… Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!



Thanksgiving Desserts

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only two days away! Last year at this time I was almost to my due date with my fourth child. In fact, I went into labor on the night of Thanksgiving. (I really just wanted to sleep.) But this will be my little turkey’s first Thanksgiving dinner and I’m so excited. (Although that is the first time I’ve ever called him that. I’m just really getting into the holiday.) To top off my excitement we have been enjoying our first snow fall of the year. The chill in the air declares the season!

I thought it would be a good idea to share some suggestions for the holiday, and as I was compiling a list of ideas… it became very clear where my priorities lie. The following are some tried and true sweet treats I can suggest without hesitation that you could proudly serve your family. At least I will be serving most of them to mine.

A classic rustic dessert: Sweet Potato Pie

A tasty twist on a long time favorite: Maple Pecan Pie

It’s a sweet bread, actually being served with dinner: Cranberry-Pecan Pumpkin Bread

A decadent family tradition: Pumpkin Cheesecake

It’s just the best: Mom’s Apple Pie

Okay, this is not a dessert but I had to add it because I will be eating this goodness during the parade and food preparation so it clearly evokes the day: Smoky Cheeseball

Happy Baking & Making!


Sweet Potato Pie

I love this simplicity of this dessert. Ok, I love the simplicity and the taste. It’s like an anytime pie, but it’s seasonal so it’s unique. And not to toot my own horn, but I really think I’ve cracked the code on graham cracker crusts. The word candy comes to mind. (I really shouldn’t write blog posts when I’ve had so little sleep… However, my soon to be one year old has yet to sleep through the night. So I’m surprised I have any posts at all.) The original recipe has been adapted from one by Tyler Florence; which is to say, that in spite of exhaustion, the recipe is solid. 😉

As organic as possible:


2 Sweet potatoes (orange)

1/2 cup Brown sugar

2 Eggs, lightly beaten.

3 tsp Flour

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Salt


9 whole sheets Graham crackers

1/2 cup Cinnamon Crunch cereal (I like Cascadian Farms)

1 stick Butter

1/4 cup Brown sugar

1/4 tsp Salt


Preheat oven to 375°. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, pierce all over with a fork and double wrap (2 times) with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour.

For the crust: Crush graham crackers and cereal in a sealed plastic bag with a rolling pin. (At least thats how I do it, you can turn them into crumbs any way you”d like. I like them to have some texture for this recipe.) By the way, I just have to tell you that the little bit of crunchy cinnamon-sugary cereal does a really great thing for the world of graham crackers. You are going to be happy. Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Add crumbs, salt and sugar. Stir until all is coated. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of crumb mixture (optional for topping). Press evenly and up the sides of a 9″ pie plate.

When potatoes come out of the oven, turn heat down to 350° and bake the pie crust for about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven back up to 375°.

For the filling: Carefully (using a towel or something to hold the potatoes, because they will be very hot!) slice the skin of the sweet potato and scoop out the insides into a bowl. (Discard the skins.) If the insides are tender enough, mash with a fork. If necessary use a masher, until they are soft and pliable. Stir in 1/2 cup of brown sugar, eggs, flour, cinnamon and salt. (Tyler Florence adds a pinch of nutmeg too, but I don’t prefer it here because it ends up tasting more like a pumpkin pie to me. However, I will leave that up to your discretion.) Bake at 375° for 20 minutes, top with remaining crust mixture and bake 15 to 20 minutes more (until crust is browned).

Then enjoy your life because sweet potato pie is delicious.



Bangers and Smash

Simple rustic food is a mainstay in our home. As much as I love to delve into a new recipe with all of my mise en place, sometimes I need to be practical. But that doesn’t mean I have to skimp on fun or flavor! I’ve recently become a fan of “smashed” potatoes. They’re like a twice baked potato, without some of the hassle. You know I love to play; here’s my take on an English (British) classic.

Serves 6-8 people (and can easily be adjusted for size of crowd)

As organic as possible:

8 large Red skin potatoes

1/2 Tbsp salt

1/4 cup Garlic-infused olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp coarse Kosher or sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground Black pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil

8 chicken or veal sausages

Scrub and trim any blemishes off of the potatoes. Place in a large pot and cover with water, over by an inch or two. Add the 1/2 tablespoon of salt and bring to boil. Boil approximately 20 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.

In the mean time, preheat the oven to 375°. When potatoes are ready, using tongs or a slotted spoon remove the potatoes from the water and place on a baking sheet, spacing them out for room to grow. Use a flat bottomed glass (or the like) and smash the potatoes until spread out about an inch thick. Drizzle potatoes with garlic-infused olive oil evenly, sprinkle with coarse salt, pepper and Parmesan. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and starts to brown.

While potatoes are baking, in a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Place sausages in the skillet and cook about 15 minutes, flipping once about half way through. Serve with love to ladies and chaps alike.


Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Lately: Cookbooks

Reading cookbooks is my favorite leisurely pass-time. I love that people share their recipes, old and new. It’s like this universal connection. People all through time and around the world can relate to feeding their family and the satisfaction it brings when they really enjoy it. I’m a long time fan of The Pioneer Woman, before she had a show on Food Network. I just appreciate her no frills approach to good food. She cooks family style with ingredients that seem to fit my family’s palate. Her new book, Dinnertime continues her trademark step-by-step photographs, homestyle meals and endearing family stories; just what I want out of one of her cookbooks. I also am enjoying her tips on meal planning, stocking the pantry and ideas for prepping ahead. And I can’t wait to make her Orange Chicken Cashew Chicken French Dip Sandwiches…


Return to Sunday Dinner is not a newly released cookbook, but it is relatively new to me. I found it really inspiring. Russell Cronkhite was a long time chef for various White House Administrations. I love his simple elevation of American classics. From the north, south, east and west, he highlights traditional dishes across the U.S. and credits the countries of origin and inspiration from which they came. While the recipes are valuable and interesting, what I loved even more was his admiration of a Sunday family gathering. It’s a celebration of gratitude for working a hard week and cherishing loved ones. I am honestly moved to get my wedding china dishes out of the hutch and set the table, at least once a week, because what am I waiting for? It’s not something pretentious or highfaluting, it’s about using your best (whatever that is), giving thanks and making memories. I love that! (And I think I know my next giveaway!)

Harvest Chili

This is the ultimate harvest chili. It’s loaded with autumn vegetables and goodness such as sweet potatoes, onions, apples, and turkey. It looks like the prettiest fall tree color-changing picture (in abstract food form) ever! It’s really healthy, so some of you are going to love that. For the rest of you, don’t let that hold you back because it’s also delicious. It’s a little spicy, a little sweet, a bountiful treat. And if I may, I think the ground turkey could easily be substituted with leftover Thanksgiving turkey… which would be awesome. Just sayin’.

As organic as possible:

2 large Orange sweet peppers, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces

2-3 canned Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, roughly chopped

4 cloves Garlic, roughly chopped

2 pounds ground turkey

1 large Onion

1 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground Black pepper

1 Tbsp Chili powder

1 Tbsp Cumin

1/2 tsp Oregano

1 – 15 oz can Pinto beans, rinsed and drained

2 – 14.5 oz cans Red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 – 14.5 oz can diced Tomatoes

4 cups Chicken broth

1 Tbsp sugar* (I think this adds balance, but if you prefer healthier leave it out)

2 Sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces

2 medium tart Apples (such as Granny Smith)

*Spicy Chipotle seasoned Pine nuts (Recipe follows), Optional

Place orange peppers, chipotle peppers, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven brown turkey with onion, salt and pepper. Drain excess fat (but a little left is okay). Add pepper-garlic mix, stir and cook about 5 minutes. Then add tomatoes, pinto and kidney beans, and chicken broth. (Side note: This much can be made ahead and allowed to simmer as long as needed until about 35 minutes before serving.)

Stir in sweet potatoes and apples. Bring to boiling and reduce to simmer, about 25-30 minutes until sweet potato is tender. Taste for seasonings. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes before serving. Top with Spicy Chipotle Seasoned Pine Nuts (Optional), or corn chips. Enjoy!

Spicy Chipotle Pine Nuts

2 Tbsp Butter

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp Water

1 tsp ground Chipotle chili pepper

1 tsp snipped fresh Rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried)

1/2 tsp Celery salt

1/2 tsp Garlic powder

1 1/2 cups Pine nuts

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325°. Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Set aside. In a small saucepan melt butter, add Worcestershire sauce, water, chipotle pepper, rosemary, celery salt, and garlic powder. Simmer over low heat for about 2 minutes. Stir in pine nuts and remove from heat.  When well coated, spread onto prepared baking sheet and bake about 10-15 minutes (shaking pan a couple times in-between), until lightly toasted. Sprinkle with salt while warm. (Side note: Nuts can be prepared ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. They are delicious on their own, and would be a nice addition on top of a salad too!)

This recipe has been adapted, tweaked, and changed from a Chipotle Harvest Chili recipe I found a few years ago in a Midwest Living Magazine. I think it’s perfection.

If you were going to use leftover turkey, I would sauté onions in 1 Tbsp olive oil for a couple minutes. Add pepper-garlic mixture and let cook 5 minutes more. Then add turkey with the tomatoes, broth, etc., and follow the remaining instructions.



Goal Assessment

It has occurred to me that I have a list of wants, and if I don’t want to forget them; I need to jot them down in goal format so that I can visualize them into becoming a reality. How’s that for a power statement of fluff?

#1 Get organized

  • If I’m going to be a professional blogger I’m going to need to get organized. That is to say, if I want to take my unpaid blogging hobby seriously, I need to get my act together.
  • Meal planning. Life would a lot more simple if I had an actual grocery list in advance for all of the meals I want to try. So that when I go to make my harvest chili, I have the sweet orange peppers I need and the apples I am saving for the same recipe don’t go soft and brown in the meantime. Sounds perfect in theory; you should see my chaos in the grocery store.
  • Catch up on fellow blog posts in my reader.

#2 Plan Noah’s birthday party

  • I’m so behind it’s ridiculous. I don’t want to talk about it

#3 Get a planner

  • If I had one place to put everything maybe I could actually do it. If I remembered to write it down, and actually use it. But this is the new organized me, so of course I would will.
  • Maybe I wouldn’t forget the blog posts I had planned if they weren’t on random pieces of paper or notes on my phone.

#4 Make a loaf of bread

  • I really need to get over my mental block. People have been doing this thousands of years, with much less convenience. I need to get over myself.

#5 Lose 5 pounds

  • There, I wrote it down, so I will certainly take this seriously.
  • Start an exercise regimine. I will be happy I did, I know this. So remind myself of this when I don’t feel like doing it.

Well now that it’s out there in the big wide world of web, I am sure to come through, because I have forced myself into accountability… sort of. And thank you for unwarranted participation. 😉

Quiche Monsieur

I was a freshman in my high school French class the first time I tasted a Croque Monsieur. It’s basically a fried ham & cheese sandwich, right? Except it was special because it was French. Then there is quiche. What’s not to love about a baked cheesy egg dish with a buttery flaky crust? From Lorraine to bacon and onion, I am all about quiche. This is a fun play on two French classics, bon appetit!

1 Pie Crust (I like Martha Stewart’s Paté Brisée, recipe follows)

4 beaten Eggs

1 1/2 cups half and half or whole milk

1/4 tsp Salt

1/8 tsp freshly ground Black pepper

A pinch of freshly ground Nutmeg

1 cup Black Forest ham, thinly sliced and cut into 1″ x 1/2″ or so strips

2 cups shredded Gruyère or Emmental cheese

1 Tbsp flour, divided

Paté Brisée Recipe: (Martha Stewart)

2 1/2 cups All purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 sticks butter (unsalted, chilled and cubed)

1/4 – 1/2 cup ice cold water

Put flour, salt and sugar in food processor. Add butter, process until resembles course crumbs. (8-10 seconds) While machine is running add water. Pulse until mixture comes together without being wet and sticky. if crumbly add 1 Tbsp of water at a time. Form dough into 2 discs. Chill at least 1 hour.

Now for the quiche! Preheat oven to 450º. Roll out pie crust and place evenly over a 9″ pie plate. (Many people will tell you to trim it to make it even, but I like to fold extra crust into the crimp, because I like crust and this is for my family -not retail.) Crimp edges. I like to cover my crust with wax paper and fill with dry beans or baking beads before I bake my crust. Bake for about 7-8 minutes. Turn oven down to 325°.

In the meantime whisk eggs, half and half, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a medium sized bowl. Toss the ham in 1/2 Tbsp of flour and add to egg mixture, stir. Toss the shredded cheese in the remaining 1/2 Tbsp flour and mix into egg and ham mixture. Pour egg mixture into preheated pie crust (baking beads removed) and bake for 50-55 minutes, until quiche is lightly browned on the top and center is set.


Serve warm or room temperature, for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Remembering Aunt June

My family has a marina business just off of the Detroit River. Every year growing up, at the end of the boating season on the second Sunday of September, my grandpa would throw a large party with a live band (or in later years a DJ) with food and refreshments for all. The boaters loved this celebration, but I think the grandkids liked it even more. To me it ended up being more of a family reunion, with distant aunts and cousins gathering together sometimes from far away places like California and New York. I remember my Great-aunt June coming to Michigan for visits at some of these family gatherings. She wore her hair longer than my grandma, and the other two of my grandmother’s sisters that I knew. She had a warm endearing persona with a very gentle way and a great laugh.


My grandmother had 5 siblings. Her sister Kathleen and brother Bud died before I ever had a chance to meet them. But I feel very blessed to have known the four sisters I did. Donna (my grandmother), Esta, June and Shirley (as shown below) had amazing wit. They could find the humor in anything and often did. I loved watching them together. June and Esta lived far away, so when they came to to town it always seemed special. The love and fondness was always transparent, like no time had passed and they had never been out of each other’s company.


Aunt June was an extremely talented artist. My father told me about baskets she would weave out of porcupine needles. He shared a time with me when Aunt June made his family’s Christmas tree look like a dream from tinsel, a surprise when they woke up like something out of a holiday story book. And I am fortunate to have one of her many paintings hanging in my home, where it has for many years like when my grandparents lived here.


My dad told me that he always remembers how nice she was, how he never heard her say an unkind word about anyone. But Aunt June wasn’t just kind to people, she was considerate of animals too. I was told a story about how once when she was outside with a relative of mine that a bee stopped on the pavement in front of them. Her response was to the effect of “He ran out of gas.” Then she placed a piece of candy next the bee, of which it partook and flew away. I don’t think I know hardly anyone that mindful. And it encourages me to try and be a more thoughtful person too.

She leaves behind her many loving nieces and nephews, her sisters Shirley and Esta, son-in-law Ron and daughter Nancy. Aunt June you are well loved and I am glad to say one day we will see you again.