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Quaran-TEEN creative dinners

I’ve been quite impressed with Carrie’s attitude and creativity during our stay at home time; she’s actually thriving. She’s in online classes most of the day. During her lunch hour, we’re doing home workouts. She set goals and is sticking with her plans to achieve them. I’m watching her get stronger both physically and emotionally. She’s trying and learning new things. At a time when she could be complaining of boredom and isolating herself in her room, she’s enjoying life! She’s making the most of our time together and taking pride in the fact that she’s doing her part to help save lives by staying home.

She came up with a creative way to bring  more fun to dinner time by planning themed dinners. Love it! We put our heads together and figured out meals based on things we had in stock and off she went.

Here’s the thing, I HAD THE BEST TIME! Somehow, Carrie’s ideas transported us to a  new restaurant every night! She made cute invitations (until our printer ran out of ink) and gave us details for each evening. We prepared the meals together and Carrie was our server but she also dined with us!

Sleeper Sunday: Eat breakfast food for dinner, wear pjs and dine on the couch.
Menu: Eggs, Rosie’s Rivets with dipping sauces and apple butter and oranges.

I don’t have any pics of us in our PJs but we wore them and ate while sitting on the couch, which we never do. Can I just tell you how much apple butter (homemade by my daughter, Hannah) elevates Rosie’s Rivets?! Game changer!

Meditation Monday: Channel our inner zen and have a calming, nutritious meal.
Menu: Buddha-ish bowls full of greens, cucumber, nuts and falafel

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This was very tasty and I felt good getting lots of veggies and healthy foods in! The weather was decent so we took it outside and soaked up the peaceful sounds of spring peepers. Namaste!

Talian Tuesday: Not much explanation needed!
Menu: Homemade naan bread pizzas and bread to dip in olive oil. CARBS galore!

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We lucked out with another pleasant evening, so we made our pizzas and dined outside. The meal was delicious and I could’ve eaten another pizza and loaf of bread! We love to make pizzas, so this was a meal we were all looking forward to! I’m still full! Mangia!

Waikiki Wednesday: This was scheduled to be Tropical Thursday but the weather was amazing so Carrie switched the days and we really embraced the tropical theme outside!
Menu: Bowls filled with rice, grilled veggies, roasted sweet potatoes, beans and grilled pineapple and fresh fruit salad with shredded coconut.  Grown ups had Masthead Brewing Company beer and Carrie had sparkling water.

ALOHA! My favorite night! We dressed in tropical clothes, brought Fifi the flamingo to the deck and plugged in the string lights. Carrie created a tropical music playlist and really set the mood. Everything combined, made me feel like I was in paradise! Look at that sunset. We laughed, danced, ate and had a blast! I can’t wait to do a dinner like this again!

Hibachi Thursday: Carrie planned to be our chef and was certain about what she wanted to grill for us. Super happy we switched nights because it was cold and rainy and an indoor Hibachi grill experience was perfect!
Menu: Carrots, onions, peas, eggs, rice and sesame seeds prepared before our eyes!

Carrie made her hat and we stuck the griddle on the table and away she went! How cute is she? She diced and grilled away! She even did a few tricks. We all agreed we want to do this again soon! Best Hibachi experience I’ve ever had!

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Fancy Friday: Get dressed up for a nice dinner!
Menu: Pumpkin Sage Lasagna, homemade spelt bread and a freezer find of pumpkin roll and brownies for dessert. Random, but it was all DELICIOUS! 

I’ve been sporting leggings and sweatshirts for over a month. It felt good to put on a dress and throw on a little lip gloss! We truly worked with what we had on hand for this meal idea. It came together and worked out perfectly (pumpkin-ish theme). Carrie played classical music, we cut flowers from our yard and lit candles. It was very nice and felt like a fine dining experience, right inside our house.

Carrie, you’re the best! Thank you for filling me with tremendous joy and keeping me excited for dinner time! I love you!

If you’re looking for something fun to do, here you go! It doesn’t have to be every night, you could just pick a couple nights. Play music, use what food you have, do some dancing and you’ve got yourself a fun-filled time! Carrie is already thinking about future themes! I can hardly wait!

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From the heart,
Shannon

Recipes · Savory Dishes

Sweet Potato Casserole

The biggest food day of the year is quickly approaching! Hello, Thanksgiving! The best holiday because it’s all about food, family and friends. For some, there’s also football but I’m in it for the food. Some people get stressed out about making “the meal” but I truly enjoy it! It’s the one time of year, I can make some of my family’s favorite dishes and eat all day long.

For the past several years, I’ve been getting as many local ingredients as possible from Countryside. Turkeys, herbs, eggs, flour, veggies, apple cider, breads, cheese–all the Thanksgiving necessities. That’s pretty normal for me all year long but it feels even more meaningful to support our farmers this time of year, as the colder months move in. It feels like one way to show how grateful we are for their hard work and dedication to our food system.

Sweet Potato Casserole is one of my oldest recipes. It’s mostly loved by my daughter, Hannah. I’ve been making this her entire life and it’s her thing at Thanksgiving. I often wonder if she wants to see me on Thanksgiving or just the Sweet Potato Casserole! Hey, a mama’s gotta do whatever she can to bribe, I mean encourage, her kids to come home!

When the big meal is over, Hannah and I have been known to have a serving of this casserole later in the evening just to top off our overly stuffed feeling! I usually make a batch for Thanksgiving and divide additional batches among smaller pans to send home with her.

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It’s really simple and delicious! What makes it super perfect is that it CAN BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME AND STUCK IN THE FREEZER! If you’ve ever made the full Thanksgiving meal, you’re doing a happy dance right now! Seriously, it freezes well and all you have to do on Thanksgiving Day is pop it in the oven! You’re welcome!

This casserole is a sweet potato filling with a pecan brown sugar topping. Start with sweet potatoes, eggs, unsalted butter, vanilla, brown sugar, flour and pecans.

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I’m making a few batches of this so you probably won’t need this many sweet potatoes! A normal recipe calls for about 6 large sweet potatoes. Bake the sweet potatoes until nice and soft and let them cool.

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While they’re baking, make the topping. Combine the brown sugar and flour in a bowl then add the butter and use a pastry cutter to combine.

Chop the pecans. Yes, you can buy chopped pecans or use a food processor to chop pecan halves but I just like the whole process so I go old school and chop pecan halves with a knife. I enjoy it and I want to have nice big pieces! As usual, Daisy Mae had to see what was going on in my photo studio!

Add the chopped pecans to the flour, brown sugar, butter mixture and stir. The good news is that you can make this topping whenever you have time and just keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

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When the sweet potatoes are cool, simply remove the skins and put the orange part in a mixer bowl. Add butter, eggs and a splash of vanilla. Mix it all up until smooth.

Put the whipped mixture into a baking dish. I always use the same white oval dish because it’s the Sweet Potato Casserole dish! As I was filling it up, it dawned on me that I want to freeze this for Thanksgiving but I also want to show you a picture of the final baked casserole.

Enter my white ramekins! I’ve never thought about using these for this casserole but how fun would that be? Especially, for a Friendsgiving! I love how personal and special these make this dish feel! I’m giving an old recipe an update! Woo hoo! That’s the kinda stuff I do!

Oh, the topping! You just sprinkle some on top and, if you’re like me and can’t get enough pecans, add a few more just to make it nice and crunchy and nutty.  All that’s left is to do is bake it! Stick your dish or ramekins in the oven. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with foil.

When you dig into it, the filling is all fluffy and the brown sugar, butter and pecans have caramelized on top. It’s divine! It goes so well with all the other Thanksgiving dishes. I don’t want to play favorites but… it’s the prettiest of them all!

As I said before, I make extra to freeze and send off with Hannah or keep a little for myself to heat up on a cold January night.

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Sweet Potato Casserole is not a new, trendy recipe but it’s one of my family’s most loved traditions for our Thanksgiving feast. I hope you’ll try it and include it in your celebration. Serve it in ramekins or a big baking dish. Either way, your guests will gobble it up and be grateful!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Sweet Potato Casserole
Ingredients
Filling:
6 to 8 large sweet potatoes (baked)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Topping:
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup butter, diced
1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions
Bake sweet potatoes until tender, let them cool then scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl.

Add butter, eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Pour into a buttered baking dish or ramekins.

Combine flour and brown sugar in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your hands.

Stir in chopped pecans and sprinkle on top of the filling.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour (larger dish) and 45 minutes for ramekins. Serve warm. It reheats like a dream!

To make ahead and freeze: Do everything except bake it. Once it’s topped, cover your dish with foil and stick it in the freezer.  Allow it to sit in the fridge overnight before you bake it.  Put the dish in the oven while preheating if it’s cold so it doesn’t crack when placed in a hot oven. If the top starts to get too brown, simply cover it with foil while baking. You want the top to be nice and crisp but not burnt! 

pumpkin · Recipes · Savory Dishes

Pumpkin Chipotle Bourbon Chili

Today has been a great fall day! It was chilly this morning. I got up early, went to the gym then headed straight to the last Countryside outdoor market of the season (they move indoors over the winter). I got these beautiful flowers from Little Bean Farm and Larder. There’s kale in there! This bouquet instantly brought me some feel good and I skipped through the meadow, taking in all the crisp air and gorgeous views. I was intentional about my time this morning because I didn’t have to rush. That was a nice feeling!

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While at the market, I also picked up some things for chili tonight. I decided to make two kinds: my traditional style chili using Beyond Meat in the Instant Pot and a new recipe I found that calls for pumpkin, bourbon and chipotle peppers.

It’s so yummy! If you’re looking for a unique chili recipe, this one’s a keeper. It comes together quickly with simple, healthy ingredients! It’s vegetarian and gluten free. Yay!

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Sauté onion, garlic and red pepper in a little olive oil. Add chili powder, salt and cumin then pour in the bourbon. It smells amazing right about now!

I still have lots of homemade pumpkin purée so I added that, crushed tomatoes, beans, chipotle peppers and butternut squash. These colors match all the trees right now. Beautiful!

That’s it! It simmers for about 30-40 minutes which gave me plenty of time to whip up a pan of cornbread. I knew the chili would have some kick so I thought a little cornbread drizzled with my favorite Brighton Wool & Honey Raw Wildflower Honey would be the perfect sidekick.

It’s still chili but it’s different and I dig it! It’s thick and loaded with unique flavors and the cornbread with honey is the perfect accompaniment.

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It’s raining and cold and I don’t even care. Kinda busy here inhaling this meal. Also, I’m really glad I worked out this morning!

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We have trick-or-treat in our neighborhood tomorrow night and I’m pleased as punch this recipe made enough so I can enjoy the leftovers. I bet it’s even better tomorrow!

From the heart,
Shannon

Pumpkin Chipotle Bourbon Chili
Ingredients:
1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup bourbon
14 ounces pumpkin purée (either homemade or canned)
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 19-ounce can of black beans
1 19-ounce can of navy beans (you can use your favorite beans too!)
1 small butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon chipotle peppers pureed with adobo sauce
Plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, onions for toppings

Instructions:
1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it is soft. Add the garlic and red pepper and continue to cook until the red pepper is soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the chili powder, cumin, and sea salt and let it cook for 1 minute more.
3. Add the bourbon and bring to a boil.
4. Add the canned pumpkin, crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, navy beans, butternut squash, pureed chipotle peppers and 2 cups of water and stir the pot well.
5. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil then reduce the heat and let the chili simmer for 30 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender.
6. Season to taste with sea salt.
7. Serve with toppings of your choice. I highly recommend cornbread and honey for dunking!

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Recipe found and modified from The Endless Meal