Spring Soups to Warm Your Soul

Spring has sprung! Well, on the calendar at least. Mother nature may or may not have gotten the memo. Rainy, cold days plus a desire to stay on track for a healthy summer bod call for healthy comfort food. Enter, soup.

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Annie’s Pick: Caldo Verde aka Portuguese Green Soup

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Don’t be fooled, this is no watery kale snooze. When I was younger, we were stationed in the Azores islands for a few years and this is one of the recipes we brought home. This is a hearty potato-leek soup with added linguisa and winter greens. It’s made to warm you from the inside out when Atlantic Ocean hurricanes come howling across the island and it. is. amazing. It’s also pretty dang healthy if you get good quality sausage, but we won’t dwell on that.

Tip on leeks: Slice before you wash, throw into a bowl of water, swish around and then let sit so the dirt settles, scoop the leeks off the top of the water into a colander, voila! Clean leeks.

  • Linguisa or other spicy sausage, to make non-spicy can use sweet Italian, cut into coins. If thick casing, remove.
  • Olive oil
  • 1 leek sliced and washed
  • 4 Cups Chicken Broth (bone broth is great)
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 Bunch Kale shredded into 1/2 – 1 inch strips, thick stems removed
  • Salt and pepper, optional apple cider vinegar and hot sauce

Heat Dutch Oven or other heavy bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Sauté sausage in olive oil until browned, remove and set aside. Add leeks, season with salt and pepper and sauté in rendered fat until soft and beginning to be translucent, then remove and set aside. Add broth to hot oil and use wooden spoon to deglaze all the browned bits. Bring broth to a boil. Add Bay leaves. When boiling, add potato and cook about 10 minutes or until very soft. Add kale and cook 10 more minutes at a simmer. Stir in reserved sausage and leeks. Add salt and pepper to taste. If thinner consistency is desired, can add more broth or a splash of apple cider vinegar. If you want extra spice, add a splash of hot sauce on top. Serve piping hot with garlic toast.

Christiana’s Pick: Vegetarian Bisque

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This soup is creamy, rich, and all of the things a bisque means to me, somehow achieved through the magic combination of roasted vegetables, broth, cream, and (you guessed it) wine. I’ve recently pumped up this soup with added protein by sautéing tofu in an herb-butter sauce that is nothing short of divine. This soup is our go-to comfort food for its hearty nutrition and incredible flexibility. You can really use almost any combination of vegetables here, (basically whatever is left in your fridge) centered around the staple, a sweet butternut squash. And since all the veggies are blended, chopping doesn’t have to be fine or precise. You can also roast all of the vegetables hours (or days) in advance and blend & warm on the day of serving. Easy, peasy, veggie squeezy. 🙂

Tip on Butternut squash:  To easily prep this beastly gourd, simply halve lengthwise and remove seeds. Smother in olive oil, herbs (like herbs de provence), salt, and fresh ground pepper, and roast at 400 until fragrant and lightly browned, about 50 minutes. No hacking and chopping required. Line pan with foil for easy clean-up.

  • 1/2 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Roasting vegetables such as:
    • 1 red pepper
    • 1 zucchini
    • 2 potatoes
    • 1/2 bunch of cauliflower
    • 2-3 carrots
    • 1 onion
    • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 package of tofu, cubed
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 bunch of fresh rosemary and thyme stems (or another dried herb blend such as herbs de Provence, if fresh are unavailable)
  • 3-4 tbsp olive (or other desired) oil for pan and drizzling
  • a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Optional garnishes: a dollop of greek yogurt, fresh herbs, or for the carnivores in your life, crumbled Italian sausage.

Instructions:

Coat a roasting pan or cookie sheet with olive oil and preheat oven to 400 F. Place desired roughly chopped roasting vegetables on prepared pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh herbs. (I don’t bother chopping the herbs at all, the leaves will crumble easily after roasting.) Halve and core butternut squash, smother with olive oil and herbs.IMG_9877 2

Roast vegetables in preheated oven for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. (Do not flip butternut squash.) While vegetables roast, heat dutch oven or preferred soup pot over medium-high heat and add butter, herbs and tofu. Sautee until tofu is lightly browned, 5-7 minutes.

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Transfer sauteed tofu and any herb-butter remaining in the pot into a blender or food processor, and reserve the pan. (I have found our vitamix works best.) When vegetables have roasted, allow them to cool and crush roasted herb leaves into your mixer, removing stems. Scoop cooled butternut squash into the blender, discarding the skin. Add half and half, vegetable broth, white wine, and crushed red pepper (if desired) to the mixer, and blend with lid insert removed and dishtowel over hole in lid until creamy, adding more liquid as necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the creamy soup back into the dutch oven and warm. Serve hot with your choice of garnish and of course, my homemade herbed bread. Voila!

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Kristy’s Pick: …Flu Fighter Chicken and CousCous Stew

This soup is adapted from a recipe that my neighbor sent to our family when I had a nasty case of a “Flu-Like” virus that had me couch ridden for almost 10 days. This savory, flavor and nutrient dense soup had me back in action before I could say “hand me another tissue”

  • 2-3 TBSP Olive oil
  • 1 Red onion Diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 inch grated ginger root
  • 2 Sprigs Thyme
  • 1 TBSP Turmeric
  • 1 TBSP Kosher Salt
  • 1 TBSP Black Pepper
  • 1 TBSP Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 TBSP Morroccan Spice mix
  • 12 oz bone broth
  • 1 Sweet Potato diced
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, pulled
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower cut in half and sliced into florets
  • 1 cup Large Pearl CousCous
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 bunch kale, torn, large stems removed
  • 1 cup Coconut Milk
  • Cilantro (for garnish)
In a pan over medium heat, add cooking oil and sauté the onion until soft. Add garlic and ginger a cook for one more minute or until fragrant. Add all spices except bay leaf to pan and stir for one minute on medium heat.  Remove pan from heat.
In a crock pot on low, add broth, chicken, couscous, all vegetables (except Kale), bay leaf, salt, pepper and cook on low for 8 hours.
After 8 hours, lift slow cooker lid and stir in kale and coconut milk. Serve with cilantro garnish.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Warm wishes to you and yours!

Green Smoothie Wednesday

Yep, you read that correctly. GREEN Smoothies! Cue all kids (and arguably a large percentage of adults) tuning OUT. But stick with me. We all know that eating our greens is important for health and fitness reasons, and today we are blending up the original green superfood, spinach.

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Packed with calcium, iron, and vitamins, spinach has boasted major staying power through diet fads and gleaned nutritional street cred from modern nutritionists to legends like Popeye himself.

The calcium in spinach can help strengthen your bones to fight against injury, and vitamins A and C, fiber, folic acid, and other nutrients fight against colon and breast cancers. Spinach also helps to lower damaging protein levels in the blood and can protect against high blood pressure and heart disease.*

Basically, spinach has nutritional benefits for all ages and all stages of life. The good news is there are much more fun ways to get your daily spinach in than a bowl full of salad every day of the week. (And whose children would ever do this BTW?!) Enter – the green smoothie. Delicious smoothies sneakily stocked with spinach.

In our opinion, there’s no better way to keep healthy eating rolling through the new year than incorporating smoothies into your regular routine.  The great thing about using spinach in smoothies is that it actually has a very mild taste so it blends well with other ingredients. So, whether you are new to the pursuit of your daily greens, or a regular green-juice goddess, we’ve compiled a list of our Real as a M*ther all-time favorite green smoothies that are packed with nutrient-rich spinach and actually taste really good.

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Nut-Butter Banana (and Spinach! Just don’t say that out loud) Smoothie

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup organic no sugar added nut butter of your choice (almond, peanut, and cashew butter all taste great)
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional – omit to keep dairy free)
  • 1 cup milk of your choice (we typically use whole milk for our kids, but also love almond and coconut milk dairy-free options)
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: vanilla protein powder, chia seeds

Makes 2 large or 4 small smoothies.

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Green & Glowing At-Home Smoothie

Whenever we take our kids to Whole Foods, (which as you may know if you have ever taken 3 or more children to Whole Foods, is a frantic 2-hour endeavor with a $500 minimum) we all end up at the smoothie bar to fill up on one of their delicious Green and Glowing smoothies. When we are not at the store (hallelujah), we make this knock-off version at home.

  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen peach
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut
  • 1 -2 cups milk of choice (adjust for preferred thickness)
  • 1/4 cup flax seed
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: vanilla protein powder, collagen peptides (for the grown-ups “glowing” skin)

 

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Greens-on-the-Go Smoothie

We love this smoothie for the flexibility of its ingredients (basically whatever we have in the freezer actually works), the ease with which we can throw it together on-the-go (which is pretty much constantly – we have ten kids between us, remember?), and for the fact that it tastes vaguely like the most nutritious PB&J you’ve ever had.

  • 1.5-2 cups spinach
  • 1 tbsp nut butter of choice
  • 2/3 – 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 handful of oats
  • 1.5-2 cups berries of choice
  • 1 shot of maple syrup
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: A shot of maple syrup to sweeten it up for the kids, a 1/4 cup or more of yogurt for a creamier smoothie, and coconut oil for extra good fats and coconutty flavor.

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Chocolate Crush Smoothie

Ok, so this recipe doesn’t involve eating any candy. Womp, womp. Sorry folks, this is a green smoothie post, after all. But, the nutrition-packed ingredients of this creamy smoothie give it a chocolatey, nutty, flavor that is almost as good as having candy for breakfast (or lunch for that matter – this is Kristy’s fave weekday lunch) and always keeps us coming back for more.

  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups spinach (or 1 cup kale)
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 avocado
  • Optional add-ins: Anti-oxidant boost (Kristy uses Nerium’s Youth Factor Superfood Powder), coconut oil or flakes

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So Fresh and So Green Smoothie

This smoothie is a super-refreshing pick-me-up any time of the day. We love it particularly while dreaming of warm tropical days, or while recovering from an afternoon of chasing our kids around the house. The superpowers of spinach and mint combine to make this almost, just almost a better green alternative to coffee. TBD.

  • 1.5-2 cups spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbsp – 1/4 cup mint
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: vanilla protein powder, coconut flakes, chia seeds

green dessert

That’s a wrap on green smoothie Wednesday! Don’t forget any of these smoothies can be made into delicious smoothie bowls by decreasing the amount of liquid, and topping with nuts, fruit, and/or granola. Now, let’s see if Popeye was right about all this spinach. Watch out, 2019!

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Cheers, and Happy (green) New Year from all of us at Real As A M*ther! Moms to 10 kids, doctor, lawyer, doula/massage therapist, financial planner, and green smoothie makers.

 

 

 

Sources: * 4 Incredible Health Benefits of Eating Spinach by Melanie Rolland, @ guidedoc.superfooods

Holiday Baking Hacks

“Twas the night before the holiday party and all through the fridge, not a stick of butter could be found, not even a smidge…with the children in bed and the dog in her crate, I’m wondering if Amazon delivers this late… “

 

man in santa claus costume
“No butter?!?!” It would be nice if the big man delivered late night baking essentials too…

The week of last-minute-everything

It’s the last week before Christmas, y’all. The final countdown. The week that in our home is unofficially known as “the week of last-minute-everything.” Between the perpetually forgotten stocking stuffers, out-of-stock toys, procrastinated holiday cards, cookie exchanges, white elephants, and school holiday performances; the office, classroom, and social holiday parties that often tend to occur during this same chaotic week have a tendency to sneak right up on me. Which is bad enough when you can’t find your ugly sweater, but even worse when you realize you’re on the hook to bring holiday treats for two dozen preschoolers and are plum out of a key ingredient.

We all wish we could bake cakes out of rainbows and smiles, but in reality, we need butter. and sugar. and eggs. And sometimes… we run out. So, here are a few ways to save yourself if you come up in a bind in the kitchen.

Favorite “Baking Hack” substitutions

Here are some of my favorite ways to get the job done when a run to the store is just not going to happen.

  • Heavy cream – for every 1 cup of heavy cream, substitute 3/4 c. whole milk and 1/3 c. butter. Melt butter and mix into milk.
  • Eggs – Substitute 1 tbsp cornstarch whisked together with 3 tbsp water, whisked together, per egg.  I use this substitute all. the. time. It’s great in a pinch, but also for saving eggs for brunch, for when that one vegan relative comes over, or even for cookie dough you know the kids will be sneaking. (No raw egg to worry about here!)person peeling the egg
  • Baking powder and Baking Soda – Contrary to popular belief, you can substitute baking soda for baking powder, and vice versa. ON ONE CONDITION. The substitution is NOT ALWAYS EQUAL. Baking soda is much more powerful than baking powder and contains an acid. Read carefully!
    • Baking Powder: Substitute 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice for every 1 tsp baking powder needed.
    • Baking Soda: You may substitute baking powder for baking soda at a 3:1 ratio. So simply use three times the amount of baking powder as you would baking soda.
  • Sugar – Both honey and maple syrup (or a combination of both!) are good sugar substitutes in baking. Use 3/4 cup honey or syrup per every cup of sugar needed. Color will be darker if you’re subbing for white sugar here. (Note: Some recipes suggest reducing liquid and adding 1/4 extra tsp. of baking soda for each cup of sugar replaced. I haven’t done this, but you may notice less of a difference in texture with these adjustments)
  • Vanilla – Equal amounts of maple syrup, slightly less almond extract, or (something I always have in the fridge) vanilla almond or soy milk. When cooking for adults you can also spring for a boozy dessert by equally substituting any dark liquor like bourbon, rum or brandy.yellow pastry on white powder on brown wooden table
  • Butter – You have a few great options here.
    • Greek yogurt: For every 1 cup of butter required, substitute 1/2 cup of greek yogurt.
    • Coconut Oil: Substitute in equal amounts, but note that taste can be noticeable (I think this can be a bonus, but non-coconut lovers should proceed with caution). A combination of coconut oil and greek yogurt is also fantastic!
    • Applesauce: For every 1 cup of butter, substitute 1/2 cup of applesauce.
    • Avocado: Substitute equally.
  • Shortening – Coconut oil is the same texture and subs really nicely here. It will give your baked goods a coconutty flavor, as noted above, so not the choice for you if you don’t want that. You can also substitute butter (if you’re not out!) at equal parts plus two tablespoons per cup. But expect a softer dough if you’re making roll-out dough for cookie-cutting. making gingerbread cookies christmas cookie cutters

If it’s healthier holiday treats you’re after, some quick (and sneaky) ways to make seasonal sweets less sinful are to:

  1. Reduce sugar. You can do this without being skewered at the cookie exchange by adding extra vanilla and/or cinnamon if applicable. You can also cut up to 1/4 cup of sugar from most sweet bread and muffin recipes simply by sprinkling a teaspoon or two of sugar on top before baking.
  2. Choose healthy fats. Butter, coconut oil, avocado, and whole milk yogurt are all good fats that top hydrogenated shortening, vegetable or canola oils in our kitchen any day.
  3. Add fiber. You can easily add fiber to bread and muffins by reducing flour and adding flax, wheat germ, chia seeds, and/or oats in its place.  These substitutions not only add fiber but naturally cut calories and boost other nutritional benefits too.
  4. Add protein. You can squeeze protein into bread and muffins (and even cakes!) by adding a scoop or two of your favorite vanilla or unflavored protein powder. Chia seeds are a nice addition to some baked goods as well.

Turns out you can have your holiday cake (and cookies and muffins) and eat it too.  Now that’s some joy definitely worth spreading.

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fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and amateur late-night holiday baker. (Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography)

Favorite Real Thanksgiving Recipes

Now that the candy-comas of Halloween are behind us, let’s look ahead to the real reason to get excited for the Holidays…….FOOD! In case you are as surprised at how fast November is flying as we are, Thanksgiving is THIS THURSDAY! While everyone is gearing up with their elastic waistbands and carving knives for what will hopefully be a wonderful day of fun, food, family, and football, we are excited to share some of our favorite Thanksgiving Day Recipes to spice up your menu this year! Don’t forget – maternity pants make excellent “maturkey” pants – break those suckers out and enjoy.

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The Best Brines for the Main Event

Let’s start with the basics. Nothing will up-level your turkey easier than doing a little brine-action. Here are two of our all-time favorites. Bon Appetit’s simple and stunning dry salt brine for the modern chef, and a classic wet brine recipe from Alton Brown for the traditionalist.

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Dry-Rubbed Roast Turkey, Christiana

This recipe IS the picture-perfect roast turkey you’ve been looking for (your whole life). It cooks to a perfect crisp brown on the outside and remains juicy and flavorful on the inside. The best part is you don’t have to run out for any special ingredients. You can cook this with literally just the salt and sugar brine come up a winner. The glaze adds a delicious complexity of flavors as well. We also stuff the cavity with lemon and a bundle of whatever fresh herbs we have on hand.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Diamond Crystal or ¼ cup plus 1½ tsp. Morton kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 12–14-lb. turkey, neck reserved for gravy, giblets discarded, patted dry
  • 12 Tbsp. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 2×1″ strips orange zest

To Make:

  1. Mix salt and brown sugar together in a medium bowl using your fingers until incorporated. Place turkey on a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle dry brine all over outside and inside of the turkey, and nudging some into crevices. You won’t need all of the dry brine, but it’s good to have extra since some of it will end up on the baking sheet as you season the turkey. Chill turkey, uncovered, at least 12 hours and up to 2 days. We load a large cooler with LOTS of ice. DO NOT let it get warm or you’ll be remembered as the grinch who food-poisoned the family.
  2. Remove turkey from wire rack and rinse baking sheet and rack if needed (turkey will most likely release some liquid onto pan). Line baking sheet with 3 layers of foil and set rack back inside. Place turkey, breast side up, on rack and tuck wings underneath. Let turkey sit at room temperature 2–3 hours.
  3. Place an oven rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450°. Using your fingers, loosen skin on breast. Work 4 Tbsp. butter under skin, spreading evenly over both breasts. Smear outside of turkey with another 4 Tbsp. butter.
  4. Roast turkey, rotating pan halfway through, until skin is mostly golden brown all over, about 30 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, cook vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, garlic, orange zest, and remaining 4 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to lowest setting and keep glaze warm.

  6. Reduce oven temperature to 300° and continue to roast turkey, brushing with glaze every 30 minutes and adding more water by ½-cupfuls as needed to maintain some liquid in baking sheet, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast near the neck registers 150° (don’t worry; the temperature will continue to climb while the bird rests), 65–85 minutes longer. Skin should be deep golden brown, shiny, and crisp. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and let rest at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before carving.

Recipe by Andy Baraghani

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Traditional Turkey Brine, Kristy

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon vegetable broth, homemade or canned. I prefer to use homemade or
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped

To Make:

Combine the broth, salt, sugar, peppercorns, allspice, and ginger in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate the brine. I usually like to add a little herb bundle combination such as Rosemary, Thyme, and Spicy Oregano to the broth. You can also add some dry white wine to replace the sugar!

Place a 14-16lb turkey in a brining bag or large plastic bag. Make sure the entire thawed bird is immersed in liquid and brine for 24 hours.

This liquid also makes for an AWESOME basting fluid as the bird cooks. You can rinse the bird and then cook any way you wish – bag it, baste it, or grill it. Add more wine as needed to keep volume of basting liquid up. Super flavorful and very easy!

Fave Sides

Turkey tends to get all the spotlight on Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest, your dinner is nothing without some stellar sides. Here are a few of our time-tested favorites from stuffing to veggies (yes you can eat them on holidays!) and beyond.

CornBread and Sausage Stuffing, Kristy

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This recipe is so savory and sweet at the same time, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it! I get this recipe straight from Fine Cooking Magazine’s killer Spicy Thanksgiving Feast Menu.

I typically make the cornbread from scratch and leave it out to dry up overnight for that very perfect consistency to create moist, yet not MUSHY stuffing.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb sweet Italian Sausage (w/out casing), cut into chunks
  • 3-4 Tbs. rendered bacon fat or butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery, including leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped red and green bell pepper (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Basic Cornbread crumbled (feel free to use a mix!)
  • 1 cup chopped scallion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Turkey stock or homemade or low-salt chicken broth as needed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

I am a big fan of this recipe, so I typically double the batch in order to have some cook outside the turkey as well.

To Make:

Up to 3 days before: Prep cornbread and leave out overnight to dry out. Crumble up. Store until ready.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add enough rendered bacon fat or butter to the pan to get about 5 Tbs. total fat. Add the onion, celery, peppers, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook briefly until the onion is softened. I will pour about 1/4 cup of white wine in the pan here and scrape up any browned bits in the pan. Combine in a large bowl with the crumbled cornbread, scallions, parsley, chives, and pepper. Toss to combine. 

(If cooking in a turkey, put the stuffing in the bird just before roasting. Pack the stuffing loosely, leaving enough room to fit your whole extended hand into the bird’s cavity. Cook the stuffing in the bird to 160º to 165ºF, checking with an instant-read thermometer. If the bird is done before the stuffing is, take the bird out of the oven, spoon the stuffing into a casserole dish, and continue to bake it while the turkey rests.)

If baking some or all of the stuffing in a casserole, pour a cup or two of stock over the stuffing to replace the juices the stuffing would have absorbed from the bird. If you want to be “extra” pick up some turkey wings in addition to your bird and place over the top to drip juices into it. Bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking. I usually add some pads of butter here as well, for some extra flavor as the top is roasting.

Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Christiana

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Feel like you need some greens to balance out all that turkey and stuffing? Us too, us too. But let’s be real, with all the activity in the kitchen, we like to keep our veggies easy-peasy on Thanksgiving Day. Luckily, harnessing the delicious, nutty flavor of Brussels sprouts requires very little effort. Even better, if you prep and slice the sprouts ahead of time, this dish can be in and out of the oven in 35-45 minutes, which also happens to be the perfect amount of time for your turkey to rest before serving. Boom-shakalaka.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package or about 1.5 lbs Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tsp or more good kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp or more fresh ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp oil of your choice (use bacon grease if you have it!)

To Make:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim and halve Brussels sprouts, pulling off any loose or browning leaves.
  2. Prepare a sheet pan with oil of your choice and spread Brussel Sprouts evenly in a single layer. Toss with remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for 35-45 minutes until outer leaves are crispy and golden to medium brown.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot!

Sweet Potatoes In Orange Cups (Plus Cocktail), Annie

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Photo by Ela Haney on Pexels.com

These are a bit labor intensive so usually one I bring if I’m not the host. They transport well and are impressive and reliably delicious! You’ll end up with a whole bunch of orange innards that you can utilize to make a fantastic light pre-dinner cocktail or mimosas for morning after. Makes 8 servings, modified from recipe by Emeril Lagasse.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs – about 7 large sweet potatoes (orange for traditional, white/Japanese if you wanna be fancy)
  • 4 large oranges
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (or 1/2 C coconut oil for dairy-free)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice (reserve the rest for cocktail)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or 1/2 cup coconut cream for dairy-free)
  • 1/4 cup brandy (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

To Make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let rest until just cool enough to handle.
  2. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Make the orange cups by cutting the oranges in half around equator and scooping out the pulp, leaving only the shell. Set aside.
  3. Peel the potatoes and put into a large bowl. Discard the skins and any tough, stringy fibers. Add the butter, and with an electric mixer, beat out the lumps. Add the 1/4 C sugar, eggs, orange juice, heavy cream, and brandy, and mix until smooth. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix well. Re-season with salt, more sugar or more spice to taste.
  4. Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the orange cups, mounding and smoothing the top. Bake until puffed and slightly golden, about 20 minutes. For an indulgent, fun “traditional” spin, top with mini-marshmallows and broil or torch to brown.

The Grand Finale

Perfect Pie Crust, Annie

person holding knife and fork cutting slice of pie on brown wooden table
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

To me, Thanksgiving means homemade pie. I mean, after all the gratitude, etc… of course. I could happily do the whole holiday without a turkey, mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce altogether. Know that if you come to my house with a store-bought pie on this special day, you will be turned away at the door. jk. I’m not that crazy. I will throw that sh*t straight in the trash when you’re not looking though.

Having grown up in a home with amazing cooks who didn’t really do any baking, I went through a LOT of trial and error learning to make pie, and specifically pie crust. SO easy to mess up and end up with a gooey or dry crumbly mess. SO hard to get reliable, flaky, pretty results. It wasn’t until America’s Test Kitchen went and got super nerdy on the process that I found a perfect recipe that is ultra-easy AND reliable. It is not healthy, like, at all. If that’s your goal, skip pie. Here it is. Works with any filling you desire. Go forth and be thankful. Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.

Ingredients (makes 1 crust):

  • 1 1/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour – DIVIDED to 3/4 C and 1/2 C (VERY IMPORTANT)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 6 TBS cold, unsalted butter cut up into ~8 pieces
  • 1/4 C cold vegetable shortening, cut up
  • 2 TBS cold vodka or 1.5 TBS vodka and 1/2 TBS alcohol based vanilla extract
  • 2 TBS ice-cold water
  • Optional (spices, citrus zest…)

To Make:

  1. Process 3/4 C of the flour (NOT ALL OF IT), salt, sugar and spices if using in food processor a few times till mixed
  2. Open lid, sprinkle butter and shortening around the top. Close, process ~ 10 seconds until it resembles cottage cheese. Open up, scrape down sides.
  3. Add remaining 1/2 C flour and pulse until evenly distributed and dough is broken up. Usually 4-6 pulses. Empty into a cool dry bowl.
  4. Sprinkle water + vodka over the top and fold in with rubber spatula until dough is tacky and sticks together.
  5. Flatten into 4″ disc onto piece of saran wrap or wax paper and refrigerate AT LEAST 45 minutes.
  6. Take out, let come to temperature and roll out on some more flour to desired size. Put in pan and trim – enjoy bites of boozy dough from the edges 😉

The Lazy Gal’s Dessert, Margo

Image result for oreo trifle

This dessert is 100% easy and 100% delicious. It’s my go-to and is always a hit!

Ingredients:

  • Oreos – 1 package, crushed (this part is fun for kids – throw ’em in a double layer of gallon baggies and let them go to town smashing them)
  • 1 boxes Chocolate pudding mix, prepared as directed
  • 1 tub Cool whip or other whipped cream

To Make:

  1. Layer as follows: 1/2 crushed Oreos, 1/2 pudding, 1/2 whipped cream, 1/2 pudding, 1/2 whipped cream, 1/2 Oreos into trifle bowl or whatever you got that’s glass to show off the layers.
  2. Chill. Serve.

The Bevs

Orange Cardamom Sparkling Cocktail, Annie

For the rest of the orange juice from above or fresh squeezed orange juice from whatever else… adapted from this recipe by the awesome Gabriella. 

sliced lemons

Vanilla-Cardamom Simple syrup: bring 3/4 C granulated sugar, 1 C water, large pinch ground cardamom or a few cracked cardamom pods and a split vanilla bean just to a boil then take off heat until cool.

Cocktail: Shake 1 part cooled syrup + 2 parts fresh orange juice with ice. Pour into champagne glass, top with 2 parts dry sparking wine such as Brut or Blanc de Noirs. Garnish with orange slice if desired.

Wine, Margo

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I may not be known for my cooking, but my company and my ability to bring beverages is unparalleled!

Ingredients:

  • White wine
  • Red wine
  • Rose wine

To Make:

  1. Open bottles
  2. Pour in glasses
  3. Enjoy food, drink, and conversation with wonderful people. Ignore the rest.

 

xoxoxo,

Christiana, Kristy, Annie, and Margo – who are all grateful for YOU!

Healthy Pumpkin Bread

If you’re like me, the second the temperature dipped below 70 degrees, you were all over all. the. pumpkin. things.  Literally, in one afternoon (in which I barely had time to shower mind you), I somehow managed to acquire multiple fall scented candles, and at least 4 cans of organic pumpkin.

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Yes, Reese. 100% yes.

I know that my 20-something-year-old self would be mortified to even think I that I would say this out loud, but I was legitimately excited to crack open a can of pumpkin to bake our first pumpkin bread of the season this week, y’all. Actual, real excitement. Hold on to your mom jeans…

I’ve been making a derivative of this delicious, spice-filled Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread, for years (maybe even pre-motherhood, I honestly don’t know because my memory no-longer functions at that level, given the last 6 years of sleep deprivation, but I digress) and it’s become, as I suppose I’ve made apparent at this point, a fall staple in our household. I usually pare down the sugar by adding vanilla and extra cinnamon, but in lieu of recent studies on good fats and bad fats (Dr. Annie breaks them down here) I made an extra swap this year.

As with most old-school pumpkin bread recipes, my go-to recipe called for a boat-load of vegetable oil (read: NOT a good fat). So this year, I swapped ALL the vegetable oil for 1/2 heart-healthy coconut oil and 1/2 high-protein full-fat greek yogurt to make this pumpkin bread unofficially healthy enough to pack in our kiddos’ school lunches as something other than a glorified dessert, and because it packs extra protein it can double as a legit breakfast. Not to mention it pairs incredibly well with a hot cup of coffee on a cool fall morning.

orange pumpkin near white ceramic mug with seeds

“WHAT?!?!” You say “Reduced-sugar-coconut-protein-pumpkin bread?!?! STOP RUINING FALL!”

I know, I know that’s what it sounds like. But I swear to you on my pumpkin spice candles, this version is, I daresay even better than the original, and IMO does not taste coconutty or unsweetened in any way. Nope. Just tastes like fall should.  And should you need proof, not a single picky sugar-loving child objected (or even noticed)! In fact they just asked for more…

So here it is folks, the healthy pumpkin bread recipe your whole family will love!

Healthy Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

*For coconut allergies or intolerances, try substituting ghee

** You can use even less sugar (I typically use about 1/4 c. less) but I believe this amount keeps it closest to traditional taste.

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To Make:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 large, or 3 small/medium loaf pans with coconut oil. (Mine yields three loaves, as pictured.)
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, stir pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water, yogurt, vanilla, and sugar until well blended. 
  3. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger, and mix until just blended. (I probably shouldn’t, but I completely skip the whole “dry ingredients in a separate bowl” step and dump everything into my stand mixer and I’ve yet to have any complaints…)
  4. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pans and sprinkle the top of each loaf with the reserved 1 teaspoon of sugar.
  5. Bake for about 45-50 minutes in the preheated oven (depending on the size of your loaf pans). Loaves are done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Serve warm, and enjoy!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3 children, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer who is passionate about healthy living and pumpkin-scented fall things.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

There’s wine in my soup

Those of you following us on Instagram may have seen this mouthwatering photo of our homemade Chianti Minestrone pop up on your feed for #winewednesday this week.

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We got a lot of interest about what’s cooking in our kitchen, and we were asked by a reader (and high school friend! what, what!) to post the recipe. So, without mincing words (see what I did there?) I’ll get straight to the point. Here’s how to make the magic happen.

Homemade Chianti Minestrone with Spicy Italian Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1 28 oz. chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into half moons
  • 1 lb hot Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced into half moons
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into half moons
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh basil, chopped (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 32 oz. vegetable broth
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup good Chianti (optional)
  • 1/2 water (as needed)
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese (for topping)

To Make:

  1. Coat the bottom of a large soup pot generously with olive oil. Add sausage, onion, and garlic and cook over medium-high heat until sausage is cooked through, and the garlic and onion are fragrant but not blackened. Crumble sausage as much as possible.
  2. Reduce to medium heat and add carrots, cook 3-5 minutes more or until slightly tender.
  3. Add zucchini and squash and saute until tender, another 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for another 30 minutes or so.
  5. Add pasta, beans, spinach, and herbs and return to a boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes and reduce heat to low simmer.
  6. Finish by adding 1/2 cup of good Chianti, and salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes I’ll add an extra 1/2c. of water or so too, depending on how much broth has reduced.

That’s it! You’re done. If you want to go crazy and make homemade bread too, this soup goes fantastically well with my homemade herbed bread, and you can find that recipe here. This makes a LOT of soup and typically feeds us for a couple of meals. I add a bit of water to thin the broth when I reheat it, but it keeps very well in the fridge for a number of days.

Bon Appetit and happy fall soup-ing! (And wining, if you’re so inclined.) Cheers!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3 children, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

 

 

Back-to-School Breakfasts

Back to school mornings got anyone else feeling like they are #herdingcats ?? You have TONS of time to make breakfast for everyone before the bus/carpool/work/drop-off, right?!?! 

Many times, school mornings are a “just trying to get pants on all parties before they exit the house” kind of mornings, so healthy, homemade breakfasts for the whole squad can sometimes feel out of reach. And we get that. BUT we also know that no one learns better hangry, so it feels awesome when we can pull together a nutritious breakfast for our little one’s learning minds.

plate morning breakfast jam

Christiana’s Pick: Make-Ahead Protein Waffles

We LOVE waffles in our family, but as a mom, I didn’t love that most prepared mixes and waffle recipes were full of sugar, hydrogenated oils, and not much nutritional value. Enter the make-ahead protein waffle. These are definitely not just for the kids! Full of healthy fats, protein, and fiber, these waffles keep our whole super-active family full and energized all morning. I almost always mix these up on a Sunday morning and double the recipe so I have batter to last me a few weekdays. If you make ahead, simply refrigerate the batter and add a teaspoon of warm water to the bowl and re-mix before cooking on the waffle iron. As a bonus: There also lots of great ways to top these. Our house favorites include farm-fresh berries and cream, bananas and nutella, or frozen blackberries with pure maple syrup.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups milk of your choice (I like to use organic whole milk and/or unsweetened almond milk. You may need slightly more or less depending on the amount of optional extras you add, listed below.)
  • 6 Tbsp coconut oil  (Easiest to mix batter when oil is warmed to a liquid)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seed (Optional)
  • 1/4 cup chia seed (Optional)
  • 1/4 cup protein powder (Optional. We prefer flavorless or vanilla, particularly Bob’s Red Mill Pea Protein)

To Make: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix and let rest while waffle iron warms. Scoop 1/4 -1/2 cup batter per waffle based on desired size. Top and enjoy!! Refrigerate leftover batter for busy weekday mornings. Will keep covered and refrigerated for several days.

Related imageAnnie’s Pick: Protein Banana Muffins

These are easy to make a week in advance, they freeze and reheat super easily – plus you get rid of those old bananas, hoorah! They are SUPER fast because you cheat and use Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Protein Packed Flapjack and Waffle Mix. They are also healthy because they’re whole grain and pack great healthy protein in each one. They taste good enough for my picky eater to mow through them because they’re made with real butter. Don’t you dare start skimping on that or throwing in your “applesauce in place of fat” recipe substitute nonsense- if you need to review my post about healthy fats to convince you, go here. The recipe is from the back of the box with a little less sugar and added vanilla. Kodiak also makes a gluten-free mix if you’re a glu-tard like me 😀

  • 2 cups Power Cakes Mix
  • 1 cup organic whole milk or milk substitute of choice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 2 ripe bananas, smashed up
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • optional: about 1 C chopped toasted nuts, coconut, chocolate chips…

To Make: Preheat oven to 350 and grease or line muffin cups (This will make 1 dozen but I usually double it). Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Use 1/3 C measuring cup to scoop into muffin tin. Bake 14-18 min for full-sized muffins or 10-14 for mini muffins. If you want to be a little “extra”, after they come out, melt some butter in one dish and mix up 2Tbs sugar and 1tsp cinnamon in another one. Dip muffins in butter then cinnamon sugar. You can also swap the banana for pumpkin and the cinnamon for pumpkin spice and up sugar to 1/2 cup for a festive fall version reminiscent of #PSL.

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Photo Cred: realsimplegood.com

Kristy’s Pick: Sausage or Bacon n’ Egg “McMuffins”

These paleo goodies are a Wright fam favorite for protein on the go. They are a meal prepper’s breakfast dream and can be made in regular size or “mini” for the kids. We have adapted this recipe several different ways, but from realsimplegood.com, the basic method is the same. If you’re like my household where”mushroom” is a bad word and provokes riot level hunger strikes, this recipe above needs to be adapted to avoid the Fungi That Shall Not Be Named. However, we’ve found it is easily substituted and a fun way to avoid the tummy rumbles and have the kids get involved! Also, since we have chickens, eggs are a plenty in our house so we try and utilize them any way we can.

For the bacon muffins:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 lb bacon, diced and precooked
  •  green onion, diced
  •  handful of spinach, chopped
  •  salt and pepper, to taste

For the sausage muffins:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 lb breakfast sausage
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, chopped (optional – create your own flavor options here)
  • handful of kale or spinach, chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

To Make: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat two medium skillets over medium heat. Add in the sausage to one skillet and the bacon to the other. Brown the sausage and bacon and remove from the heat and set said.  In two separate medium bowls, crack five eggs into each bowl. Whisk the eggs up. Add in your ingredients to each bowl. This is where I let the kiddos take the lead. You can let them add herbs, cheeses, or extra meats they like! Next, rub a muffin tin with a little oil or spray with coconut oil spray, spoon the egg mixture into the muffin tin, filling them to just below the top. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Hope this gives you all a few options beyond toast and squeezie yogurt (no judgement on those options though!) or…. paper products. Happy Back-To-School week Real M*thers!