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Chicken Fricassee

October 17, 2018

Have you ever made a dish that you remembered to be just amazing, and then a year went by and you weren’t sure if it would be AS GOOD as you remembered? But then you made it and you realized, YUP it is that good, possibly even better than you imagined.

Just me?

Chicken Fricassee is the dish to make for your next Boss over for dinner/Priest over for dinner/Dinner Party/Birthday/Holiday or just a very special Tuesday night. It’s a classic that should be revived because everyone needs to try this to know that food can taste this good. (It actually dates back all the way to a medieval cook book from 1300’s).

The reason it’s lasted so long through history is because its DELICIOUS. The alchemy of the lemon juice, and the wine, and the fresh herbs, and the vegetables, simmered with cream and egg to make a velvety texture, and then tender chicken that soaks up all the juices, along with rice and bread – it actually makes me close my eyes to take in all that is happening in my mouth, which is my test for the best things I have ever eaten.

Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking describes a fricassee as “halfway between a sauté and a stew” in that a saute has no liquid added, while a stew includes liquid from the beginning. Technically in a fricassee, cut-up meat is first sauteed but not browned, then liquid is added and it is simmered to finish cooking. But most recipes have you brown the meat first, so I guess there is some room for interpretation.

I knew this to be a classic French dish, but when my au pair from Columbia tasted this she said “you are cooking with flavors from Columbia. This is the type of dish we would make after everyone has been partying all night, and they are hungry again at 1 or 2 in the morning, and this is what they all eat to feel better again.” (If that doesn’t make you want to try this recipe I don’t know what will). But I looked and there is a popular Spanish dish called fricasé de pollo that has spread to other Spanish speaking countries so clearly this dish has travelled not only through time but geography, again because it is DELICIOUS.

To make it, you start by cutting up your veggies (doing this prep before makes assembling this dish so much easier, I highly recommend it) and the chicken (I like smaller pieces than a whole breast):

After you’ve browned the chicken take it out of the pan to rest and start building flavor with the familiar flavors of mirepoix + mushrooms (I used a leek instead of onion but it is good either way). Then you add flour + white wine to this and let it reduce:

^I can’t tell you how good this smelled. The wine, the veggies, the bay leaf. You’ll just have to make it so you can smell it too.

Then, add chicken broth and herbs, and while that heats up, stir together cream and egg yolks. Then – and this is the most complicated part of this recipe but still doable –  you add a little bit of the hot liquid to the cream + egg mixture to temper the eggs so they don’t scramble, but instead create this velvety, creamy, rich complex sauce that holds everything together.  (I used a 1/4 cup instead of a 1/2 cup as the recipe calls for to be extra sure I didn’t add it too quickly!)

Then you add this creamy mixture back to the pan and let everything simmer. Then at the end you add lemon juice and fresh tarragon. These flavors go together so well that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and does that thing that makes me love cooking so much – it becomes something special and magnificent and memorable.

My kids love rice pilaf, so I serve it with that but mashed potatoes or crusty bread soak up all that delicious flavor. Or you could just drink it straight. It’s that good.

Last night I was still dreaming of it before I went to bed, and I made a small bowl. And I sat there and thought ‘this is what I would order in any restaurant and be totally blown away and happy.’

I don’t have to wish you Happy Eating with this dish – if you make it I know you will have Happy Eating. Cheers!

xoxo Katie

Chicken Fricassee (I doubled this recipe – printer version here): 

Recipe from the blog Everyday Occasions

4 chicken breasts (I cut them in half for kid portions)

4 chicken thighs (remove skin)

sea salt & black pepper

3 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion, diced (I used one leek instead, so delicious)

2 carrots, diced

1 rib of celery, dice

8 oz. of mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons of flour

1 cup of white wine

3 cups of chicken stock

fresh thyme

bay leaf

1/2 cup of cream

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

fresh tarragon

Serving suggestions : Rice, French Bread or Mashed Potatoes

Pat chicken with paper towel.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Melt butter in a heavy dutch oven. Add oil and brown chicken for 4 minutes on each side.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Cook onions, carrot, celery and mushrooms in the same pot until almost soft.  Sprinkle with flour and cook for another minute until flour is absorbed. Pour in white wine and cook for another minute, stirring.  Add chicken stock, thyme and bay leaf.

In a small bowl, mix cream and egg yolks.  Add a small amount of the hot stew mixture to the cream and yolks, stirring constantly.  Your goal is to slowly warm the eggs so they don’t scramble. Once warmed (after about 2 cups of stew mixture is added), pour into the stew pot with vegetables and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture reduces and thickens.

Add chicken back into the stew.  Keep simmering until chicken is cooked through.  Keep warm on low simmer or in the oven (about 250) until ready to serve.  Before serving, add lemon, 1 tablespoon of butter and fresh tarragon. Serve with rice, french bread, or mashed potatoes.

See  this and more great recipes from Jenny Steffens at http://jennysteffens.blogspot.com

 

Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken Breasts with Avocado Salsa

July 18, 2018

I can’t believe I have been Food Blogging for almost 7 years and I haven’t ever posted one of our favorite dinners.

This Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken Breast with Avocado Salsa is one of those dishes that might seem boring because of the simplicity of it, then surprises and delights with its bold spicy heat from the Cayenne rub (just 3 ingredients!), the cool creaminess from the avocado, then the crunch from the onion, all tied together with lime juice and salt. It’s our perennial answer to what to do with the frozen chicken breasts in the freezer that actually gets us excited for dinner. And it is beyond easy to make.

I love that it’s low carb, that it is SO satisfying from the good fats in the avocado, and we usually have the ingredients on hand, if we have timed the avocado ripeness just right. My kids love avocados and any meal where they get to count it as their vegetable.

And while the little kids don’t love the spice, you can coat their chicken breasts in a ranch seasoning packed instead of the spice rub or just cook it with salt and pepper and then dip theirs in ranch. (I usually serve some pasta or rice on the side too.)

(This is such a workhorse meal for us that I didn’t even have time to get great pics of it, but couldn’t keep that from sharing with you all.)

You might even find yourself making the salsa on its own to have deconstructed guacamole whenever the feeling hits you.

And it would also make a great appetizer if you skewered chicken thighs, put the rub on and grilled them, and then dipped them into a smoother guacamole or this chunky version here.

Hope this makes it on to your weekly rotation! If my husband had his way, this would be dinner 3 nights a week.

Now I’m off to take a gaggle of kids to the pool, which is on repeat these lovely warm days.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken Breasts with Avocado Salsa (printer version here.)

Ingredients

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Hass avocado, pitted and cut into chunks

Directions

  • 1. In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cayenne; rub all over chicken.
  • 2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add chicken, and cook until browned on the outside and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes per side.
  • 3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine onion and lime juice; set aside. Just before serving, fold avocado chunks into onion mixture; season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken topped with salsa.

 

Recipe is from MarthaStewart.com

Summer Ideas

July 5, 2018

Happy 5th of July! Hope you had a lovely 4th.

Well, the joys and challenges of summer are upon us, and that means lots of heat and extra laundry as we swim every day. And letting meals unfold as we see where the day takes us – basically the opposite of meal planning, especially when delicious meals are found with the freshest, simplest seasonal produce. Tomatoes, corn, blueberries, strawberries. Grill up some protein, add some vinegar and maybe some cheese and sit back with some rosé or a Negroni (or two).

Lots of people have been messaging me asking for ideas for summer grilling and salad ideas, so instead of a meal plan here are ideas for summer get togethers that I am loving.

1.This Kale and Brussel Sprout salad is still our favorite go-to summer salad.

2. A friend made Ina Garten’s Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta for a party and Sophie (my 10 year old) was raving about it the next day and asked me if I tried it. She said, “Mom, I ate the last one and I was so sad because I wanted more!” (how cute is she?). And if you are looking for something really different in the crostini category here is…

3. 35 Bruschetta & Crostini Ideas from Epicurious – I really like this one with thai basil since I am growing a lot of it.

4. Mission Chinese Food – I’ve seen this in several places, the NY Times, Food52 (done by one of my favorite food bloggers Alexandra Stafford) which tends to mean its a very good recipe. Alexandra wrote exactly what I was thinking – that there were a lot of hard to find ingredients but that you can sub any vinegars for the ones they had listed. And that the salad was addictive.

5. Speaking of Alexandra, she has her favorite summer salads up on her blog that all look amazing. (Julie, this list is for you!). She knocks food blogging out of the park.

6. I have been craving zucchini salads and this one from Bobby Flay looks amazing. It happens to be one of the many Summer Cookout Sides he is sharing on Food Network so if you don’t like this one you are sure to find one you do in his list.

7. Grilled Swordfish Kebabs with Golden Raisin Chimichurri we are addicted to grilled Swordfish, especially with lots lemon and blackened seasoning (had it last night with fresh corn and caprese salad). This looks like a great twist and I can’t wait to make it the next time we grill.

8. This Asian Slaw from Alton Brown seems like it would go so well with those swordfish kebabs.

9. Our sitter came in raving about the the Curried Potato Salad with Apples her dad made for their bbq. It got me craving one and both this one from an Indian Chef and this one from Genius Kitchen look good.

10. This Grilled Brie, Pineapple and Prosciutto recipe looks amazing!

11. I could live on this Ratatouille recipe all week.

12. I also always crave Gazpacho so here is the Green one I posted and a Red one I posted.

13. We’ve been loving putting burrata on our Caprese salad.

14. I also can’t wait to make this Burrata Antipasto from A Life From Scratch.

15. If you are looking for a great and easy dessert idea, just add this Strawberry Rhubarb compote onto vanilla ice cream. I posted it here to go on top of muffins that are delicious, but this is the ultimate topping for vanilla ice cream. Along with blueberry compote when they are bursting from bushes and produce sections. Plus if you don’t have time to make it due to  summer fun you can just put the fresh fruit on top.

16. Someone made these Campfire Cones at a party I went to last summer and I know my kids will LOVE them when we go camping.

Pregnant with Twins: Weeks 24-26

July 21, 2017

Since I am constantly scouring the web for info on these later weeks of twin pregnancy, I thought I should share what they have been like for me, should some other lucky mom troll the interwebs for commiseration. I started this post a few weeks ago, but then a book launch happened. I figured I would just add on to what I had since the week by week comparisons have been the most helpful to me. I will try to continue and fill in every two weeks here on this blog should you feel like you want to follow along. If you want to see my 18 week update, click here.

24 weeks pregnant: The week of viability, or the week a baby could live outside the womb is always such a mental milestone, especially with this pregnancy.

I am generally a glass-is-half-full girl, and I am still over-archingly joyful about the amazing event that will take place this fall. I don’t think you can wrap your brain around delivering and holding 2 babies until you actually go through it. I am so aware of how many people have lost twins, and held them for such a short time, so in sharing my current feelings, it is not that I am unaware of that heartache. This post, though, is to help moms who might be in a twin pregnancy or late stages of pregnancy and are feeling the literal and figurative weight of what they are carrying. It is to be honest about what is hard. Lately my most frequent pastime when I have a down minute is scouring the internet and searching ‘how to survive a twin pregnancy’ or ‘getting through the end of a twin pregnancy’ because at only 24 weeks, I am hurting. Mostly these searches just produce a boat-load of (100% justified) complaining. I am sort of looking for the version of twin pregnancy that is carried out by a cross between Mother Teresa and Margaret Thatcher – one filled with tough love, vaulting over obstacles, and a steely will that stays fixed on the end goal. But I usually end up rolling over and feeling sorry for myself and my inability to breathe laying down.

Hitting up against physical limits is hard.  They are really the biggest sanity-testers for me. It’s summer, let’s go to the beach? Great, I can only carry 1/2 of what I usually can and will need to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes, and also, no wine.

We are headed to an amusement park? My favorite. But I can only walk in short bursts, can’t go on any of the rides, and will need to use the bathroom every 15 minutes. And then I will need a two hour nap. And later, no wine.

All of the projects around the house that I want to do, are necessary for me to do in order to get ready for the babes, keep slipping by since I have no energy to do them. We are re-doing an attic and making it a bedroom for the au pair. Currently it is filled with Christmas decorations that were thrown back into their bins during ski season. I have at least 3 bins of wreaths that I have never used in this house that need to be lugged down by presumably someone, I have no idea who. My husband’s normally slow July has picked up into warp speed due to getting an increase in his territory.

I know it just means I am human, and I truly am listening to my body and respecting what I can do. Fatigue and super-human stretching just come with the territory. It is easy to think ‘only 3 or so more months, its going to fly by!’ But then, as I open my eyes each morning, there is this significant pressure on my abdomen that I had forgotten about while dreaming, and also it feels like it has gotten bigger/heavier because, well, it has. And then 3 months feels really, really long.

26 week update:  

I am pretty much feeling the same as 24 weeks, only bigger, and excited that 2 weeks have passed. Update on the attic: my champion husband and I got it all done last weekend. He lugged the heavy stuff while I sorted. Cue all the good feelings of being liberated from tons of unused belongings in the attic. Now I just have to go through the baby clothes. I superstitiously save this job for the weeks we are very close to meeting the baby, to get me through the last of the pregnancy when I am huge. This time I am doing them way earlier, because I am already huge and need the energizing effect of tiny clothes now, in case I go early. (Plus Prime Day had a huge sale on Burt’s Bees baby clothes.)

I am still on a high from my book launch this week, which was a wonderful distraction and a really fun night. A measure of my energy level is that staying out until 11 pm on the night we held the book launch made me go to bed at 8:05 pm the next night and sleep until 7:30 am.

And my last ultrasound showed the babies looking very healthy. Baby B is still being monitored for Down syndrome, with the only marker being slightly bigger kidneys (a 1.5% increase in risk). When taken with the blood test results saying it is 70-85% likely that one of the babies has DS, and my age, which is 41, we are assuming we have a very healthy baby who has Down syndrome until a blood test shows something else. (You can read more about it on my 18 week post).

By far everyone’s #1 question is ‘what are you going to drive?’ and I am happy to report that we solved that question and bought a van. A real van. Not like a mini-van or anything. One that could be used commercially. Which our 4 year old likes to point out whenever we see a commercial van. Fortunately, our big kids think it is on par with having a limo so we have major street cred in their eyes.

Now all we need are the car seats, plus some diapers.

Yup. We’re going to need a lot of those.

A Southern Dinner

February 26, 2017

(Hi Food Lovers – just a note to say as I completed my edits for my book I got behind on everything, including blogging here. I am attempting to make it up to you with not just one recipe, but a whole meal. These recipes are truly all new favorites on our rotation, and it feels so good to be back sharing a love of food with you here.) 

It’s hard to step your baby toe into a love of food without feeling the effects of Southern Cuisine on America. Southern Cooking has become synonymous with cooking with soul, or love, or heart, or something approximating all three. But you don’t need to get philosophical to know that southern food just tastes good. With its mixture of rich fatty meat, an ample supply of butter and cheese, and tangy, vinegary liquids, most of which have been cooked long and slow, its hard not to end up with something that will make your belly and your soul very happy.

So when my southern friend Christy sent me her recipe for Collard Greens around New Years, followed up with some lovely gifts and priceless staples like grits and seasoning they use in their kitchen to achieve that authentic flavor, I knew I wanted to see if my Northern Kitchen could make those flavors appear.

Turns out, it can. I thought I’d use some of these gifts for a whole southern meal, complete with a rib recipe that we’ve been loving. The result was amazing fall-apart ribs, collard greens that were so flavorful, they tasted like they were from a restaurant in the south, and baked cheddar grits that were so good they’ll make your toes curl. Or at least make you want to curl up for a nap. All of these make up such quintessential comfort food, it’s no wonder it’s called soul food.

So let’s start with the my favorite:

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Collard Greens à la Christy

 

This recipe has a short cut that I highly recommend: buy the seasoning packet from Uncle Wiley’s which my friend sent me. Whatever kind of magic is in there, it sure makes for some delicious greens. If you don’t want to bother, just play around with your garlic powder, salt and pepper until it tastes seasoned. The salt pork adds some salt too so go easy at the start of it simmering.

This recipe delivers you a huge pot of good for you greens, plus a whole bunch of broth that I sipped for the next three days and just made me feel amazing. I was writing a lot that week, and I would get so excited when I brought up a hot, salty mug to sip while I worked. Christy said it’s called “pot likker” and all I know is its pretty life affirming. Or at least during editing season. I found my collard greens at my local store so hope yours carries it too.

Collard Greens à la Christy (printer version here):

When I got the photo of the recipe, it was officially titled “Collards and Peas” which just sounds like a great dish, doesn’t it? She said her husband traditionally makes the peas separate from the collards by boiling them in a little chicken broth, which is what I did. Then you just serve it together. But here is the cast of characters:

“Collards and Peas” 

3/4 container of peas, soaked overnight, then cooked in chicken broth (can use frozen)

1/2 an onion

3 bunches collards, sliced

1 salted pork pack (I had a large package and just used a slice that was about one inch thick and it was just right)

garlic, salt and pepper (or use Uncle Wiley’s seasoning packet)

3 stalks celery (I sliced them and loved them, but you don’t have to if you want to just use it for flavor)

dollop of chicken bullion

Optional: add a splash of malt vinegar at the end.

Directions:

Trim collards from stems which are bitter. Then chop them up and place them in a huge pot of water. Add pork, onion, spices, and a huge dollop of chicken bullion. There is no right or wrong ratio for the peas and collards, essentially just throw everything into a pot, bring to a boil, then simmer until leaves are tender. You can also served with black-eyed peas and diced tomato. 

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Oven-To-Grill-Ribs

So you’re going to want to pin this recipe too.

I don’t know about you, but after having eaten great ribs from friends and restaurants, I was sort of in the camp that I would let them make them and I’ll happily eat them.

But then I found this recipe from Chef Charlie McKenna in Better Homes & Gardens, who has some deep southern roots and an award winning BBQ restaurant in Chicago. He made ribs seem…doable. So when my daughter asked for ribs for her birthday a while ago, I tried them, and they were SO easy and SO good: falling of the bone, smokey, juicy, and well-seasoned.

The secret is you flavor them up with mustard and the rub, then cook them low for 2 hours, sealed in a tin foil envelope, so they stay really juicy. Then flash grill them for 10 minutes with BBQ sauce. The rub mixture makes enough for 3-4 rack of ribs, and I store mine in a tightly sealed jar. And I have made my own sauce, but in a pinch, I have used a good jar too.

I love that you can cook these all year round if you use an indoor grill pan. One rack of ribs feeds our family very comfortably.

Oven-to-Grill Ribs (printer version here):

Ingredients

  • 13 1/2 pound rack pork loin back ribs
  • 1/4cup yellow mustard
  • 1cup BBQ Rub
  • 1/2cup BBQ Sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. With a pastry brush, spread the mustard all over both sides of the ribs. Generously sprinkle the rub all over both sides of the ribs.
  2. Place ribs in the middle of a double thickness of heavy foil cut 6 inches longer than the ribs. Wrap ribs in the foil. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until tender (the two middle bones of the rack should start to pull apart easily).
  3. Remove ribs to a tray (discard liquid in foil packet). Spread the sauce all over both sides of the ribs. Grill on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat for 15 minutes, brushing with additional sauce every 5 minutes, turning once. Adjust heat as necessary to prevent burning.

BBQ Rub

Directions

  1.  Place celery seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a spice grinder and grind until fine. Mix together with remaining ingredients. Store leftovers in a dry, cool place.

BBQ Sauce

Directions

  1.  Whisk all ingredients together in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill up to 2 weeks.

Recipe originally printed in Better Homes and Gardens.

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Baked Cheesy Grits

Normally I test totally new recipes like this, but turns out Baked Grits are very easy and with the help of butter and cheese turn out delicious no matter what you do. (Ok, scorching the bottom of pan might not work). I merged a number of recipes online, which were all very similar, keeping notes as I went, and they turned out just the way I was hoping. Maybe it was the authentic grits sent from Georgia? Now my mind is dreaming about fried polenta.

Baked Cheesy Grits (printer version here):

5 cups chicken broth

1 1/4 cups grits, rinsed

4T.  Butter

1/2 t. garlic salt

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

1 cup (4 oz) sharp cheddar, divided

1 cup (4 oz) monterey jack

1/2 cup milk

3 eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bring chicken broth just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; gradually whisk in butter and grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until grits are done. Remove from heat.
  2. Add seasoning, milk, half the cheddar cheese and all of the monteray jack cheese. Stir until completely combined and cheese is melted. Taste for seasoning, adjusting if needed. Add eggs and combine well. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining half cup of cheddar cheese.
  3. Bake, covered, at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until mixture is set. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

I hope you take a trip to the South via your taste buds and try these out! They are delicious and memorable, and with friends like Christy, definitely Soul Food.

xoxo, Katie

{Crowd Pleasing} Mac & Cheese Bar

December 21, 2016

Having a houseful for Christmas or New Years?

Want to serve something decadent?

Want to serve something in one pot? Enter this Mac & Cheese Bar. image

This is the perfect crowd friendly meal for a festive occasion – I made this last year for my families Christmas Eve party and it was so fun to watch our relatives grab piles of lobster in the middle of winter (something they would never do) and my kids top theirs with bacon. They were also my very favorite leftovers for sure.

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The idea hit me because chefs are always offering AMAZING mac & cheese dishes at restaurants, and I often can’t decide which ingredient I would want the most.

Mac & Cheese with Lobster? Mac & Cheese with Bacon? Mac & Cheese with Truffles?

Why not share the love and have toppings with all of these goodies?  I invited a few friends over last weekend to share this and fell in love with it all over again. It is SO good and SO easy (my favorite combo).

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Start your favorite Mac and Cheese recipe – mine is Martha Stewart’s Perfect Macaroni and Cheese recipe below (I always double it for leftovers in case someone is really hungry.) She calls for baking it with bread crumbs on top, but since I want people to stir in all their goodies, I reserved the breadcrumb topping and sautéed that with some butter and thyme to make my first topping: breadcrumbs. I thought this would be a little lackluster but oh how wrong I was. It was the perfect texture to complement everything else on the plate.

Then I bought frozen lobster, thawing it a few hours before serving. Then crumbled some bacon.

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I added a side salad and we all ate like kings. This is every bit comfort food and luxury combined. The next day, I found a jar of black truffles and tried some on top. SO decadent. You only need a little. I found my jar at Homegoods, but you can order it here.

Note: If you want to keep the mac & cheese warm throughout the party you can use a crock pot! I pulled my Dutch Oven out right before dinner and it was kept warm with the lid.

Topping Ideas:

// Bread Crumbs with Thyme: sauté reserved bread crumbs in butter, adding fresh or dried thyme.

// Lobster: buy frozen and thaw in fridge over night or in warm water 2-3 hour before serving.

// Crumbled Bacon: cook as package directs (usually 375 for 12-14 minutes) and cool. Crumble and serve.

// Onions/Shallots: these would be good sautéed or deep fried until they are crispy

// Black Truffle: use a small amount of minced, oil, or shaved.

If you like diced tomatoes or avocados, those would work too. The sky is the limit.

The only thing that could make a plate of this more delicious is to add some sangria (thanks Molly!):

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I hope you find a way to make this ( or gently hint to someone else to make it!). It is so fun and fills up hearts and bellies. My favorite kind of food.

I am going to take the rest of the year off and enjoy my family and go skiing up north. Here is wishing you and your families cheer and peace this Christmas and the Happiest, Healthiest of New Years.

Happy Eating! xoxo, Katie

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Perfect Macaroni and Cheese (from Martha Stewart, find printer version here):

You can easily divide this recipe in half or double it (like I did!). Serves 12
6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (note: I reserved this as a topping)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top (or reserve if using for a topping). Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Topping Ideas:

// Bread Crumbs: sauté reserved bread crumbs in butter, adding fresh or dried thyme.

// Lobster: buy frozen and thaw in fridge over night or in warm water 2-3 hour before serving.

// Crumbled Bacon: cook as package directs (usually 375 for 12-14 minutes) and cool. Crumble and serve.

// Onions/Shallots: these would be good sautéed or deep fried until they are crispy

// Black Truffle:  use a small amount of minced, oil, or shaved.