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Kid Food

My Kids’ Favorite Chili

September 15, 2018

I love how the cooler temps have made all of our bellies crave the comfort food of fall. Chili is always my first go-to meal at the start of fall, and I love nothing more than to make a huge pot from scratch, cowboy style, mixing cumin and chili powder and oregano and garlic, and loading it with peppers and beef and beans.

However, my kids don’t like to eat this kind of chili. They don’t love heat, or peppers, or beans, or my own personal blend of chili seasonings.

When the twins were born and neighbors dropped off meals, one of our friends brought her chili and my kids devoured it. I texted her how she made it, and voila, this was her secret weapon (thanks Carmen!):

Not only did she use McCormick’s Mild seasoning packet, but she also loaded it with sweet potatoes, which actually makes this chili a little sweet. It’s no wonder my kids devoured it.

And even though my daughter doesn’t love beans, I use less in this version than I do in my cowboy style chili and she doesn’t mind. And using two types of meat gives it such a great texture, plus the smokiness from the kielbasa gets infused in the whole pot.

I love that I can keep all of the ingredients for this in my freezer and pantry. Last winter I made this almost every weekend because the kids unanimously shouted ‘yes’ every time I asked them if they wanted me to make it. It cooks up fast, about 10 minutes active time and 20 minutes inactive. This recipe makes a double batch so there are lots of leftovers. The kids pack it up for school in a thermos, or eat it after school. And it is a great go-to lunch for me when I am flying through the day.

Also if we had to be out all day doing sports or other things, I would put this in a crock pot on low and it is ready to eat when we walk in the door.

So as the temps start to fall and sweaters and scarves come out, put a pot of this on and curl up with your fam and watch a movie. And then do it again the next day since you’ll have so many leftovers.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie


My Kid’s Favorite Chili (printer version here): 

Serves about 16, you may want to halve the recipe if you’re not feeding a crowd

2 T. olive oil

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 lbs. ground beef

1 large (or 2 small) sweet potato, cubed

2 packages McCormick’s Chili Seasoning Mild

2 cans diced tomatoes

2 cans kidney beans

1 turkey kielbasa, halved and sliced



Heat oil in a dutch oven or large pot. Add onions and sautee 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add ground beef and cook through. Sprinkle McCormick’s chili packets over meat mixture and stir for 1 minute. Then add tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans and kielbasa. Simmer for 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender, adding water if it gets too thick.

Serve with your favorite chili toppings like shredded cheese, onions, sour cream, lime juice and chips.


Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

August 29, 2018

When I cook dinner, I very often focus on the meat as the star of the show – a stuffed chicken breast, a pork tenderloin with lots of flavors, a well cooked piece of beef. I’ll rely on a box of rice or couscous, or the perennial favorite – potatoes – to round out the meal. But sometimes, it’s nice to have a side that’s fancy, and let someone else (like Target for example) bread your chicken cutlet for you.

So it was that I had this recipe printed out and stuck to my cork board in the kitchen, waiting for the night to try it. Its attractions included 1) Lemon 2) Parm 3) It looked easy. And it totally was.

And I was really intrigued by the directions to just stick a metal bowl right in the pasta water to heat up the ricotta and make the sauce. (Or in my case, your daughter wanted to help and the pasta was cooked before you were ready to make the sauce so you scooped it out and left the water boiling and used that. But think I could use this method a million times in the future. Also had to hurry and used bad kitchen lighting. But doesn’t her sunshine face make up for it?)

The sauce comes together in a snap, and with the lemon, parm, salt and pepper and basil, it has so much flavor. My kids loved it, and it made a lot so they also loved the leftovers the next day (it totally got better with age.) The recipe encourages you to make your own ricotta, and if you have the time it is worth it. We were in between homework and soccer and did not have the time, but ONE DAY I will make this with fresh ricotta. (This recipe for fresh ricotta is my favorite.)

And, once you’ve stirred together this sauce, you’re pretty much done.

You just stir, add some more salt, olive oil or lemon zest to taste if you want, and top with a load of fresh basil.

Now that I know about this technique of stirring ricotta in the hot water to make a sauce, my creative juices are flowing. Porcini and pancetta? Sun dried tomatoes and olives? Let’s see where the future takes us.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Serves 6


1 pound dried short pasta, such as gemelli, fusilli, penne, or rotini

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, preferably freshly made

1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Juice of 1 large lemon

1/2 teaspoon

kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Good-quality olive oil, for serving


Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.

Place the ricotta, Pecorino or Parmesan, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a large heatproof bowl and stir to combine. When there are about 2 minutes remaining in the pasta’s cooking time, place the bowl over the pot and slowly stir the ricotta mixture. You should see it loosening as it warms.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it well. Add it to the bowl of ricotta and mix well to evenly coat the pasta in the sauce. Add the basil and red pepper flakes, if using, toss, and serve immediately. Drizzle olive oil over each serving.

This recipe originally appeared on

Weekly Meal Plan 4/30

May 2, 2018

As you may know if you follow me on Instagram, Monday April 30th was my son’s birthday, and the birthday boy requested spaghetti and meatballs, so that was our meal on Monday. Sorry to duplicate. But Tuesday’s dinner was so good, every loved it. Plus I cooked extra pasta and spaghetti squash on Monday so I just warmed it up. Pro Tip.

Monday: Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

Tuesday: Paleo Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken and Sausage

This was a big hit with everyone! And I loved that it came together really easily in the crock pot. I think next time I will double up on the balsamic vinegar and add a bit more garlic, but otherwise it was really flavorful and had that comfort food factor. Also, cheese on top doesn’t hurt but if you’re aiming for health it’s a winner as is.

Wednesday: Roast Chicken with Creme Fraiche and Herbs

I love this recipe SO much – Mimi Thorisson does it with a whole chicken but I use thighs and it is quick and delicious and easy. Serve with couscous or mashed potatoes to soak up all that delicious liquid on the bottom of the pan with the melted creme fraiche and herbs.

Thursday: Bacon wrapped Pork Tenderloin – 

This is a super old post with old photos, but it sort of adds to the fact that this is a retro dinner, one that my mom used to make when I was growing up. It’s a long post but a SHORT recipe – pork tenderloin, onions, peppers, and tomatoes all sliced and stacked with semi-cooked bacon wrapped around it with a toothpick. Season with salt and pepper and roast. It’s one of those ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ kind of dish, where the combination of these ingredients is surprisingly flavorful and very satisfying. And that lemon butter zucchini side dish is strait out of my childhood and SO good. 

Friday: It’s pizza, but we are making our own and doing a Brussels Sprout + Pancetta version for the grown ups with a sauce that is just jarred alfredo sauce and probably store bought pizza dough (I love to make my own but with twins I concede to let the pizza dough makers do it). Here is a comparable recipe.

Saturday: I made three Baked Ziti so we could have some for busy sports days and this Saturday is pretty typical of our spring sports season. So glad it’s waiting there for us! The Pioneer Woman’s Baked Ziti is very close to how I make it (hope to blog my recipe soon!).

Easy Shepherd’s Pie

April 19, 2018

On my last meal plan, I linked to Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie, a favorite among my kids. I do tend to chuckle a bit though when I’m scrolling through her recipe and see her steps for ‘making your own puff pastry’. This seems a lovely thing to know how to do, along with making all my own baby food and growing my garden from seedlings. But, as Shauna Niequist once said, the baby food people do a really good job at making baby food so she just let them, and outsourced that part of her life. Apart from adding water and an immersion blender to what I’m making everyone else, I follow this logic and buy my baby food. And you know what? Pepperidge Farm does a really good job at making puff pastry, so I just use theirs, and use Ina’s recipe for the filler because it’s delicious. The whole thing comes together in less than 30 minutes and tastes like from scratch cooking.

There is something to this idea of finding ways to outsource what you can in the kitchen. The last time I made Shepherd’s Pie, which my family loves, I got to thinking…

What if I let the mashed potato people do their job?

I ordered all natural mashed potatoes from my grocery delivery service, and I was very skeptical, but you know what? They tasted like they were homemade.

The next time I made Shepherd’s Pie, I used ready-made mashed potatoes and was stunned by how easy it all was. I use Alton Brown’s recipe, but now I chuckle when I scroll past all the steps to make the potatoes.

Even though his recipe yields amazing mashed potatoes, I really love skipping a half hour of work. I use his recipe for the filling, and then open up two packages of store-bought mashed potatoes and smear it on top. (One half is the Oprah Cauliflower kind for the adults who are trying to be a little healthy, and one half is all natural regular). Last time I mixed in an egg, which Alton’s recipe calls for in the potatoes and there wasn’t a huge difference.

Isn’t it great having options in pulling together dinner? Some days there’s time to make things from scratch, but on the days there isn’t (…cough, twin babies…), short cuts that don’t skimp on flavor and aren’t filled up with junk like preservatives and chemicals are always welcome.

We made it again last night because now it is moved to our easy meal list. My daughter said, “I love how comforting this dinner is.” If everything else in this week is a bust, we’ve got that.

Here’s hoping this brings Shepherd’s Pie to your family table a little more regularly.

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Easy Shepherd’s Pie (printer version here🙂


For the potatoes: You can use 2 pre-made potato packages and skip this step

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk

For the meat filling:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced small

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves

  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas


{SKIP IF USING PRE-MADE POTATOES: Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.}

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown’s on The Food Network


Italian Stuffed Cabbages

August 31, 2017

Need a new recipe for your back to school repertoire?

This recipe had called to me ever since I saw it on SmittenKitchen this summer. And as most of you know, we’ve been a little busy growing humans at our house. Just standing on my feet for very long in the kitchen is hard, and my cooking dreams have been curtailed by a lack of appetite, energy, and plenty of food aversions.

But I finally got inspired to make this thanks to the cabbages my daughter planted (i.e. took cabbage plants home from school and as they were wilting on our window sill in June, decided to stick them in the garden). I had to do something special with these beauties, right? (By the way, I am guessing the chances you have a head of cabbage just siting in your backyard are very low. We don’t normally have them either, and I am not even sure what kind of cabbage it is, but thanks school!)

Rest easy that the recipe calls for savoy cabbage leaves, which you can find at most grocery stores and I think would be even better, since the leaves are softer and easier for kids to bite through. I didn’t mind these at all and think you could use any cabbage leaves, but my youngest didn’t like the how thick and hearty these were, but they loved the insides. I was glad I made extra since the leftovers seemed to get better the next day.

The recipe calls for sweet pork sausages, and even though Smitten Kitchen says she omitted the fresh herbs and still loved them, I had them on my deck so I used them and I felt like they really added to the dish.

Assembly is super easy, and I love her suggestion of wrapping them with a toothpick (you can roll them like egg rolls too).

And the best thing about this dish is the very simple, pure tomato sauce. I ended up doubling it after this photo was taken because I had doubled the cabbages and I suspected the cabbage-bite-to-tomato-sauce ratio was important. (Turns out I was right).

So if you find yourself looking for a new dinner to add to your school night rotation, this one is a keeper. I served them with mashed potatoes (see the yummy recipe for some below) but rice, pasta, or polenta all seem like great sides to soak up the garlic-tomato sauce.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Italian Stuffed Cabbages – (printer version here):

Makes approximately 12 cabbage rolls; a serving can range from 2 (petitely) to 3 per person. Serve with mashed potatoes (Deb at SmittenKitchen recommends these.

1 large savoy cabbage
7-ounce (200-gram) hunk of bread (see above), crusts cut away, torn into small scraps (you’ll have about 3 loose cups of scraps)
2/3 cup (approximately 150 ml) whole milk
14 ounces (400 grams) or approximately 4 plain pork sausages (I used sweet — i.e. non-spicy — Italian), casings removed
1 small sprig of sage, finely chopped
1 small sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

Prepare cabbage: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Discard any messy or broken outer cabbage leaves and carefully peel 12 nice, large leaves. (I think the cabbage can tell if you’re in a rush, and will tear more easily. Work carefully. That said, a torn leaf will hardly ruin the dish.) Blanch leaves for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (you can do a few at at time), until wilted, and spread out on towels so that they dry and cool.

Make filling: Place bread scraps in bottom of large bowl and pour milk over. Let sit for a few minutes, then mash it gently with a spoon until something close to a paste forms. Mix with sausage meat, herbs, parmesan and a pinch or two of salt and black pepper; I find this easiest with a fork or bare hands.

Make the cabbage rolls: Lay your first cabbage leaf on the counter. If it doesn’t want to lay flat, pare away some of the thickest stalk (with a paring knife or vegetable peeler) to make it easier. Form some of the filling mixture into a golf ball-sized round. Wrap cabbage leaf around it (see Note about shape up top) and pin at the top with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining leaves and mixture.

Make the sauce: To prepare your tomatoes, either break them up with your hands (for bigger chunks), run them through a food mill or roughly chop them right in their can with scissors (what I did here). In a heavy saute pan with a lid or a medium (5 to 6-quart) Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds (just until golden, not a moment longer) then add the tomatoes, bringing the sauce to a gently boil. Season with salt if needed. Add cabbage packages, arranging them carefully in the pan so they all fit, cover the pot and gently simmer them for 25 minutes. Remove the toothpicks and carefully turn the rolls over, cooking them for another 25. Remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes to cook off some of the wetness. They’re all cooked now, but if you can rest them for another 15 minutes before eating them, the flavors settle and they become even better.

Recipe originally found on


Summer Sides

June 18, 2017

When a new season gears up, I am always looking for fresh food ideas. Some dishes are classics, for sure, but I also feel like I want a new round of flavors, new tastes that spark my memories and imagination.

I have been on the hunt for new sides to bring to all those pool parties, picnics and bbq’s that make getting together in the summer so easy. I think I found some new favorites. I am giving them a little roll call here in this post, and I hope you find some great ideas for your next get together. But before we get into the new kids, I just have to mention the one salad that we keep bringing back every year, in case you don’t know about it.

Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad (find the printer version here at Bon Appetite):

I have never brought this anywhere and not had someone ask me for the recipe. And plenty of friends have told me this is now their go-to salad in the summer (or fall. or winter.). I think it is just the perfect balance to fatty, juicy grilled meats. This salad’s dressing has the combo of garlic, lemon, dijon, and the pecorino has the saltiness to make your taste buds wake up and take notice. And the vitality of all that Kale and Brussel Sprout goodness makes you feel great the next day.

Ok, on for the new ideas…

Lemon Balsalmic Pasta Salad  – This one looks like such and easy pasta salad with new flavors. Plus I love pasta salad leftovers the day after a party, and often add a little scoop to my veggies salads at lunch all week. Can’t wait to try this one.

Tomato and Red Onion Salad:  This one almost doesn’t need a recipe but it is such a great dish on any buffet table. Julia Child has a version of this but adds avocados and it is amazing, so feel free to slice up one and add it to this recipe, with perhaps more seasoning.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad:  I always think of Caprese salad as an easy go to summer side but after seeing this one looks like I need to try it.

Speaking of Caprese, I so loved the idea of this Plum Caprese salad that uses light plums and cucumbers – sounds so refreshing.

Grilled Caprese Naan Pizza – And I can’t stop thinking about this new twist to one of my favorites, Naan Bread Pizza, from one of my favorite food bloggers, Courtney from A Life in Scratch. I saw her make these on Instastories and have been dreaming about them ever since (she also put caprese on top of garlic bread and that might end up being one of my favorite summer meals). Here site is full of summer ideas so poke around there.

I can’t get enough of simple cucumber salads, and this Thai flavored Cucumber Salad looks light, refreshing and so tasty.

Pickled Onions – I am on a big kick of keeping a jar of pickled onions in my fridge after I had a salad that used them at a restaurant and the cravings began. It couldn’t be easier to put together these ingredients, and if you want to add cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower, or carrots, who am I to stop you? But just these simple onions dress up salads, burger bars, tacos, anything your summer throws at you.

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Lime Butter:  This is definitely happening at our next bbq.

Bacon and Avocado Macaroni Salad:  I made this for a pool party and I loved it! My pregnancy cravings of bacon and avocado and pasta were met here and the lemony dressing has a great tang. You’ll notice I added peas to this recipe because I was just feeling it. I also left out the thyme because I was still a little averse to herbs. It was still delicious and I think made it more kid-friendly.



  • 12 ounces elbows pasta
  • 5 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 avocados, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cup thawed green peas
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, for garnish (optional)


  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil


  1. To make the dressing, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and thyme in the bowl of a food processor; season with salt and pepper, to taste. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream until emulsified; set aside.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  4. In a large bowl, combine pasta, bacon, avocado, lemon-thyme dressing, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with thyme.

Adapted from