Things that are making me happy this week:

Trader Joe’s sparkling waters. These totally satisfy my need to drink something carbonated, since I’m trying to avoid soda. And they’re only $1!

Red tomatoes in December!

There’s only a few of them, but my plant is still hanging on.

The cutest takeout container. I got this at a Korean restaurant, and they sealed it up like it was a little Lean Cuisine or something.

Chicken tikka masala over turmeric rice with peas.

I’m obsessed with this dish at a local Indian place so I thought I’d take a stab at making it myself. I found a recipe on the Pioneer Woman, cut it in half, and it turned out really well. You can’t replace the smoky flavor of the tandoor oven, but by cooking the chicken under the broiler you can come close. The sauce was right-on in color and texture, but next time I would use less garam masala and a little more cumin. Still, yum!

I also got crafty and made a stocking for Sadie to match the one I made for Reggie.

Sadie’s features a turkey, as we discovered on Thanksgiving that she will knock down a whole turkey carcass when tempted. You can’t stop the hound nose.

And finally I leave you with my favorite song of the week – Shake it Out!

Salmon with caper-dill sauce

This is definitely one of those go-to recipes when you want to eat something healthy, but don’t have a lot of time to cook. I think with salmon the less you mess with it the better it is. But a little sauce on the side makes it extra special.

Salmon with caper-dill sauce
Serves 4. My fillet was a little small so I made 3.

1 pound (or a little more) salmon, cut into 4 fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:
3 ounces plain yogurt
1 tablespoon light mayo
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While that’s heating up, prepare the sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl, and put it in the fridge to cool.

You can add more mayo, less yogurt, for a richer sauce.

Heat a big skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper, and add them, skin-side up, to the pan.

I am growing to love our cast iron pans…

Cook for 3 minutes, then carefully flip the fillets over and cook for another 2 minutes. What you’re aiming for is a nice brown crust on the outside.

Now you’re going to finish the salmon in the oven. It should take anywhere from 3-8 minutes, depending on how thick the pieces are. I gave mine 5 minutes, and that was plenty, almost too much.

I like to serve salmon with a blend of half brown rice and half wild rice, and my favorite roasted zucchini and onions.

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are headed to Sacramento for a potluck with friends. I’m relieved to have a fairly low-key Thanksgiving since our travel plans for Christmas are going to be much crazier.

I decided to bring the non-canned green bean casserole with crispy shallots,

and my favorite cornbread stuffing with caramelized onions.

Mike made this gorgeous bread with cranberries and walnuts.

You’ve gotta be impressed with a double decker braided bread!

I hope you’re enjoying a day full of yummy recipes, football, parades, and naps. 🙂

Thanksgiving recipes

I realized I still have a lot of my family’s traditional Thanksgiving recipes yet to share with you, but until I get those up I thought you might enjoy a little recap of some recipes that would be great on your Thanksgiving table.

First off, these little spinach tartlets are my favorite appetizers of all time.

Toasted pumpkin seeds would also be good for pre-dinner or football-watching snacks.

I’ve never actually cooked a whole turkey before, but I do make a mean roast chicken, and I’m sure my recipes for stock and gravy would work with turkey.

Speaking of gravy, if you’re planning to make mashed potatoes you can use the version from my shepherd’s pie recipe. They are to die for, and go easy on the milk and butter.

If you want to lighten things up a bit you can make green beans with shallots instead of a creamy casserole.

Wild rice stuffed acorn squash makes a great guilt-free side or vegetarian main dish.

How about some homemade bread? This no-knead version is great for bread-baking newbies.

And if you saved any room for dessert, how about pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting,

or ridiculously easy apple tarts?

I always liked giving caramel apple favors to my guests, too.

After Thanksgiving you can make pot pie with your turkey leftovers.

And if you feel like you overdid it, you can always get back on track with a little green juice.

I for one can’t wait. I love Thanksgiving!

Show this weekend!

I’m doing my first Berkeley craft fair on Saturday at the Sticky Art Lab, a fun place where kids can go to make craft projects from recycled materials. Here’s all the info!

Comfort food classics

Even though we’re not exactly bundling up against freezing temperatures here, we still feel the seasons change and the days get darker before Mike gets home from work. So by dinnertime we’re ready to cozy up with something comforting for dinner.

Magical noodle-y casserole awaits.

I thought I’d give you a couple of recipes that we’ve been enjoying this fall. The first is a beef stew that slow cooks on the stovetop without too much effort. (Maybe you could even do it in the crock pot.) I thought about adding potatoes to it, but ended up just sticking with carrots. We opted for toasted garlic bread slices on the side.

Beef Stew
adapted from Paula Deen

2 pounds stew beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 carrots, cut in 1/2 inch chunks
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Heat the oil in a big soup pot over medium-high heat. Drop in the meat and let it brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium and add all the ingredients except for the carrots and celery. Cover the pot and simmer for an hour and a half.

Remove the bay leaf and garlic cloves and add the carrots and celery. Simmer for another 30 minutes. If you feel like you want the meat a little more tender and falling apart you can raise the heat and let it bubble a little higher.

Before you serve, take out 2 cups of liquid. In a separate bowl mix up 1/4 cup of water with the cornstarch and add it to the liquid. Then return it to the pot and mix it up. When the stew is thick and bubbly it’s ready.

**And by the way, if I haven’t mentioned it before, I learned the best way to make garlic bread from Rachael Ray. Just toast bread slices, slice a garlic clove in half and rub it all over the bread, then spread on a little butter. It’s so much better than the pre-packaged stuff!

The next recipe is my version of the tuna casserole I grew up with. We always made it with biscuits on top, but I decided I like it better with noodles instead. I remember I had a roommate in college who thought it was hilarious that I put peas in the casserole, but I think that’s fairly normal. Right?

Tuna noodle casserole

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons AP flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
10 3/4-ounce can cream of celery soup
2 cups milk (whole milk recommended)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 ounces tuna, drained
2 cups peas
3 cups dry egg noodles
salt and pepper to taste
About 1/2 cup bread crumbs to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a big soup pot over medium and melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and garlic powder. Then add the milk and soup and keep whisking. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

*Edited to add: I’m normally an advocate of buying 1 or 2 % milk to save on calories, but when I made this once with whole milk it was so much better that I will make it that way from now on. It makes the perfect creamy sauce. 

Stir in the cheese and turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tuna, noodles, and peas.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Bake, uncovered, for 15 more minutes.

Loving: fall edition

Rae Dunn salt and pepper cellars from Terrain. I can’t tell you how much I adore these.

Pork chops with apples and onions — serve over polenta. Thank you, Real Simple. (Erin, have you made these yet?)

Hy-Vee Seasons magazine. My first time writing for them.

Pine cones I picked up in the yard. They make such an easy and perfect centerpiece.

A wreath project I’m working on for Fresh Home.

And pumpkin-pecan muffins. I wasn’t so jazzed by these at first, but they’re growing on me. My mom and I agreed that we can’t have our traditional sugary pumpkin bread around if we plan to stay in shape, so these are a nice seasonal alternative.

Pumpkin-pecan muffins
adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe in Runners World
makes 12-15 muffins

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk or kefir
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. These are kind of sticky muffins, so it’s probably not worth trying to scrape them directly out of the pan.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl. Whisk the butter, oil, pumpkin, egg, and buttermilk in a separate bowl. Fold the wet mixture into the dry, and then fold in the pecans.

Fill the muffin cups almost all the way to the top. Bake 25 minutes or until they are done in the center.