Birthdays, Thanksgiving and Decking the Halls: Food, Food, Food!

birthday cake 2Thanksgiving is a time when we often stop and reflect on the things we are, well, thankful for and even if you don’t post something to facebook everyday, make scrapbooks or make a big production about it we still find ourselves reflecting on the more lovely things in our lives, at least for just a moment.  It is a good exercise and one we should consider practicing more than once a year.

I am thankful for people to share life with, people to celebrate and celebrate with and for being able to make someplace for people to feel at home.  It was an awesome week.

The Process: For a full explanation visit this page

1. Sit down, relax and plan (or pick some meals from here)

2. Make a grocery list and stick to it!!!! This saves time and money

3. Do the shopping-aim for one trip

4. Bring Back Dinner and enjoy

The Meals:

Provencal Vegetable Soup: Food Network  Chef: Ina Garten

provencial vegitable soup

Time: 1 1/2 hours

Ease: Simple

Review: Soups are warm and comforting by nature, but this soup is especially comforting.  It is the kind of soup you eat while curled up in front of a fire with your favorite blanket.  Do not let the pistou scare you, it is an additional step, but makes all the difference in the flavor.  I believe in you, I promise even with this added step I still call it simple.

Tip: Saffron can be expensive and sometimes we just have to watch the budget.  Try the Hispanic section of your grocery store for a more affordable option, it still adds nice flavor and color.

Glazed Asian Chicken Thighs:  All

asian chicken 3


stir fry

Time: 1 1/2 hours

Ease: Simple

Review:  I try to make chicken at least once a week and learned something this week; my family prefers dark meat, hmm I think I should have know this already.  They loved this dish! It was easy to prepare and the flavors were nice with a little heat, but not so much as to scare off my heat sensitive people.  Try experimenting with your own stir fry  as side dishes.  For this one I added Ginger, thai chili paste, reduced sodium soy sauce, and a little pepper.  Just enough flavor without taking away from the fresh, crisp, vegetables.  Yum!

Sliders/ Mini Man Burgers  Food Network    Chef: Alton Brown

Ooops, we ate them too quickly!


Time: 15 minutes

Ease: Simple!

Review:  These burgers were so good, that we all ate them so quickly that I didn’t even have a chance to take a picture! What you see above is the review: gone, good, and quick! I think you’ll like them; clearly we did!

Thanksgiving Day and Birthday Celebration #1:
thanksgiving day

  • Turkey with sweet Italian sausage, sage, parsley and breadcrumbs stuffed under the skin and apple, onion, sage and lemon in the cavity.  Brushed with olive oil.  I used Food and Wine Magazine as a guide and adapted to what I thought we would like.
  • Chantilly Potatoes with a Parmesan Crust
  • Broccoli Salad
  • Cranberry Salad:  My husband made this with orange jello, lemon jello, red wine and nuts.  It was great.
  • Rolls
  • Chocolate Truffle Cake ( we didn’t do the eggs) with Whipped Ganache and poured Ganache: Birthday Cake for the birthday boy

It was a wonderful day celebrating, enjoying family, and just hanging out.

Chili and Birthday Celebration #2chili & Spoons green

Time: 2 hours

Ease: Simple

Review: I have made this recipe for years and years and everyone loves it!  The go to chili recipe.

This recipe uses a jar of spaghetti sauce and you might think “what!! no way!” but trust me it is great.  No one would ever guess.

Tip: Adapt this recipe to suit your family.  We omit green peppers, sometimes, and always omit corn just because we aren’t fans.  I like this slow cooked to develop a lot of flavor.

And Aunt Lacie‘s Carrot Cake for the birthday girl.

Apple Sausage Stuffing Bites  For Decking the Hallsapple sausage stuffing bites

We finished the week by decorating for Christmas.  Each year we invite a bunch of people over and have apple cider, coffee, lots of food, and decorate.  We are loud, silly, and have so much fun!

This year’s feast included some of the following items, prepared by me and my friends:

tomoato cheese sandwich bites

Now, it is time to put the house back together and start fresh for another week.  Remember to take a dinner time breather, relax and relate.

Photos may be used, but please link back to this blog and credit Lisa Burbach, recipes are links to existing recipes and I have no ownership of recipes other than the ones I Have created.  Thank you.

It isn’t Always Perfect, but it Makes it Memorable

For all of my perfectionist friends out there, a word of advice: Relax, it doesn’t always have to be perfect!  No, really! But, I do understand.  I like it perfect too.  Years of cooking with friends and family have taught me that the community built in the kitchen that spills over to the table is what it’s all about.  If the dish isn’t “just so”, or the fork is the wrong side- um, ok well, actually I do switch them…. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it’s OK.  Life isn’t ruined because the dish looked ugly, was burned or the dog ate it, it is just something to laugh about later.  Julia Child is a great example of this, she could drop a chicken or an egg and just laugh and keep on going, you can too.  You may be surprised by the results and you will love what is made through it- Relationships!

What I want to give you in this blog is not just recipes and ideas for dinner, but the joy of dinner; not just dinner, but of every meal.  I want you learn about each other, laugh, cry, talk, share, build, and grow together. I want you to grow memories.  I want people to talk about the joy of sitting at your table.  You can do this whether you’re using a cardboard moving box for a dinning room table or you have a huge formal table in a massive dinning room.  It is about the atmosphere that is set and the comradery.  Be creative, have fun, and set the table.

The Process:  Each week I sit down with a nice cup of coffee and pour over magazines, cookbooks, and the internet and find 5 meals I’d like to make that week.  I base these meals on items that I have in my pantry and fridge so that I can be the most economical in my shopping.  I make 5 because life is busy and I may be away from home a night or we may eat leftovers.  Adapt it to fit your lifestyle.  Then from these meals I make my grocery list and try to stick to it.  I find the list helps me be frugal.  This process takes about a half an hour to an hour.

The Meals:

Spinach Gnocchi

Spinach Gnocchi with Shaved Ricotta Salata:  Food and Wine Magazine, Chef Marc Vetri

Time: 1 Hour

Ease: Intermediate Skill

Results: This was a nice dish, but a little intimidating. The recipe says “to form a soft dough”, but I would have liked a little more description.  My dough was probably a little too wet, and my end result was not like their picture, but it cooked well with a nice texture.

You may not be able to find Grana Padana and may use Parmigiano Reggiano instead.

I found the Ricotta Salata at the grocery in the specialty cheese area. It is a pressed, aged, salted and dried version of Ricotta.  My cheese loving husband liked this very much.  Remember, you are trying new things.  Embrace it!  This is nice with a salad and a fairly acidic dressing as a balance to the rich gnocchi.  I also served bread rounds with bruschetta on the side.

potatoesSoup a Week!!!  In our family we have a soup a week during autumn and winter (most weeks).  My family loves this so much so that when my daughter went away to college she said that when she realized she was missing soup-a-week she was even more homesick.  Food speaks!  This weeks Soup is Potato Soup

There are as many potato soup recipes as there are people.  Personally I make mine a little bit different every time, depending on my mood.  Spicy or baked potato like or pesto, cheesy, lumpy, smooth….  This only takes about an hour or less to make.

Saute onion (about 1/2 cup-2 cups) in 1 tablespoon butter and a little olive oil.  Once the onions are translucent I add a few cloves of garlic (if using this time) and I add whatever spices I may want to use, a pinch of cayenne pepper and stir them until fragrant.   I boil my potatoes (about 1 small potato per person) in vegetable or chicken broth (vegetable is nice if you are doing meatless Mondays). Once the onion mixture is ready add broth and potatoes (about 8 cups of broth).  Simmer until potatoes are tender and remove from heat.

Smooth and creamy or lumpy? This is where my family and friends disagree so here is the compromise: Pull out some of the potatoes and set aside then puree the remaining soup with a hand-held immersion blender or in a regular blender (a little at a time). Slowly add heavy cream to the pureed soup and stir well. I use around 1/4 -1/2 cup cream adjusted for consistency, then add the potatoes you pulled out back to the soup.  This makes the lumpy potato soup people happy while also satisfying the smooth potato soup people.  If they truly insist on no lumps, divide the lumps between the lumpy eaters bowls and ladle the smooth soup over the top.   Serve with a nice bread.

photo by L.W. Burbach

Hot and Sticky Lemon-Pepper Chicken: Food and Wine Magazine, Chef Richard Blaise

Time: 1 Hour

Ease: umm, this is iffy. See below

Results: I left this recipe for my husband to make when I wasn’t planning to be home. ( I told him to use chicken cut into pieces because I had found a great deal on chicken breasts and had a lot in the freezer.)  My husband struggled with the oil temperature and the batter all slid off the chicken and made sort of a glue in the bottom of the pot.  Ok, try again.  Second time around it worked well and in the end it tasted fine.  So results may vary by cook (tongue in cheek). Note: If you do not like sweet and savory combos, this may not be for you.  Serve this with steamed green beans and roasted potatoes.

photo by L.W. Burbach

Fondue Night!!!!

My family loves fondue.  Long live fondue.  As you see from my photo, fondue has been around for a while-ya diggin’ my groovy Avacado Green fondue pot.  We love to do this with friends and do use china!  We usually have a pot of broth, a pot of oil, a pot of cheese, and one of caramel or chocolate.  Just have fun with this one.

Time: several hours of fun and laughter

Ease: piece of cake (dipped in chocolate)

Results: Memory maker, laughter, some oops, silliness, just plain fun.

Suggestions: raw chicken (keep this separated from everything else!), broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, apples, cake, bread, squash, onion petals, sweet potato slices, potato slices, anything else you’d like to try.  We served this with tempura batter, Crab dip for mushroom caps, dipping sauces of: Ranch, Teriyaki, Thai chili paste, chutney, tahini, and a remoulade sauce. Long live fondue!

Margarita Pizza

Margarita PizzaClassic Margherita Pizza – New York Style: Food network, Chef Emeril Lagasse

Time: 1 Hour 13 Minutes

Ease:  Easy

Results:  This is just a great pizza all the way around!  If you are intimidated by making crust try looking in the deli or freezer section of your grocery.  Sometimes they stock dough from the pizzas made in store.  Fresh mozzarella is in the specialty cheese section of most stores.

Well, this week’s meals were not perfect.  We had fun, we still ate well and we made memories.  I’d say it was a successful week!

Photos may be used, but please link back to this blog and credit Lisa Burbach, recipes are links to existing recipes and I have no ownership of recipes other than the ones of Have created.  Thank you.