A Shepard Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.
One of my very favorite holidays next to Christmas. Time to be with family. Plenty of yummy food to be eaten. Long turkey-induced post-pig-out naps. Leftovers for dinner and Friday (typically there isn’t much beyond that with my big family!)

I’m excited this year to spend thanksgiving in Greenwich, CT with my aunt and cousins. My mom and dad are making the trip too, as well as two brothers and my dear sister-in-law!

Each year we all have different tasks– things we claim or things we are assigned to cook. It’s become a beloved tradition for me to be on sweet potato casserole duty. I tend to help out with pies or other things as well but you can always count on me making the sweet potato dish:)
I haven’t changed much from when I first tried this recipe my mom had found for “Holiday Sweet Potatoes.” There was one time I switched the topping to a pecan/brown sugar crumble instead of marshmallows, but given the reactions of the family, I will keep on with the ooey-gooey beloved Jet-Puffed topping. You can never have enough marshmallows, my siblings say as they try to fit a few more handfuls on top of the already-peaked marshmallow mountain.

This year I’ll be doing it again in my aunt’s kitchen. This recipe isn’t really a secret so I’m happy to share… I tend to not measure the spices as much though and use these measurements as more of a suggestion. You won’t know until you take a lick.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Holiday Sweet Potatoes
6 large sweet potatoes
3/4 cup Sugar
1tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup Buttermilk
1/2 cup butter

Marshmallows for topping

After baking sweet potatoes until soft, peel when they’re cool enough to handle and then combine with all other ingredients in large mixing bowl. Beat or mash together thoroughly, til sweet potatoes are smooth. Bake at 350 for 45 mins to an hour. During last 10 mins while they’re in the oven, top with marshmallows.

I’m also bringing with me 2 apple pies and a new dessert I’ve had success with at 2 different occasions (it’s so quick and easy) — I call it Pumpkin Pie cake. Hoping it’s going to become a new Shepard Thanksgiving tradition!

For the apple pies, I’m using one recipe from the Joy of Cooking and one from Smitten Kitchen’s delightful cookbook! We’ll see which one wins… I have my bets on the Deepest Dish Apple Pie from Deb:)

deepestdishapplepie

I baked this one last night and threw together the other pie before we got in the car to make the trek to CT.

Deepest Dish Apple Pie

Also on our menu we have my husband’s mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (which we always make following the recipe on the back of French’s crunchy onion topping), some vegetarian dishes I don’t yet know the details on (this is why we split up the work), turkey of course, Gorgozola Pear salad, and the you-can-never-not-have Pecan Pie. Probably other things I’m forgetting!

If you can’t hear it from my use of punctuation in this post, I’m extremely excited! I think this might be my husband’s first Thanksgiving with my clan (or some of my clan)… It’s just worked out that the past 2 years have been at his house and Christmas was at mine even though we’re supposed to switch off!

Gotta run…. there’s more pie than we know what to do with here. :)

so many pies

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

What’s for Dinner | Turkey Burgers

Turkey burgers have been a favorite of mine for quite some time since I grew up with a mom who made them for me!

I haven’t ever used a recipe but decided one night I wanted to spice them up a little and I ran into this recipe from Rachael Ray. They turned out delicious. A little on the spicy side, so go easy with that chili powder unless you want to be breathing fire:)

Another quick, easy meal my husband and I are big fans of.

turkey burgers

Cheddar-Studded Turkey Burgers

Makes about 4 patties

What you’ll need…

  • About a pound of ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, diced into 1/4-inch chunks
  • 1 rounded tablespoon chili powder (or a little less!)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped (I opted to skip as I didn’t have any)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus some for drizzling
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
  • A handful of cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)

Chop and dice the onion, cheddar cheese, pepper, garlic and cilantro.

Pre-heat a large nonstick skillet, indoor grill pan or tabletop grill to medium-high heat.

Combine the ground turkey, onion, cheddar cheese, chili powder, ground cumin, jalapeño or serrano pepper, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium size bowl and mix everything together with your hands. Score the meat with the side of your hand to separate into four equal amounts. Form the mixture into four large patties no more than one inch thick.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the patties and place them in a hot pan with a spatula and cook for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until the turkey is cooked through.

*Optional* For the cilantro cream, combine the sour cream and chopped cilantro, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Serve the Cheddar-Studded Turkey Burgers topped with a little of the cilantro cream if you’d like!

Sweet Tooth | Balsamic Blueberries Dessert

balsamic-blueberries

We were over at our good friends’ house, having just eaten a delicious meal and were playing a fun round of  the board game “Ticket to Ride,” when it was suddenly time for dessert. Our friend pulled out a lovely dish from her oven containing saucy blueberries and proceeded to serve it up with vanilla ice cream. We were stunned to find out the dessert we had been smelling was blueberries cooked with BALSALMIC VINEGAR! You may think this sounds a little strange or off-putting…. well, you have to give it a try before you can judge.

We licked our bowls clean and helped ourselves to seconds. It was delicious!!

Of course when I had the chance to use the recipe myself I tried recreating it. Mine came out smelling a bit too strong of vinegar…. and I found out the other day why! I must have let the vinager boil, which, according to America’s Test Kitchen only enhances the pungent vinegar taste/smell. So make sure to just simmer the balsamic when you’re cooking the blueberries :)

You’ll find the recipe here from Epicurious… they combine peaches with the blueberries which I’m sure must be delicious but it’s great with blueberries alone too. It is hands down one of the simplest/quickest desserts to make and sure to be loved by all! I would say it even might be healthy, too. :) I hope you enjoy as much as we did!

Raspberry Peach White Sangria

It’s a wicked scorchah!
It reached 100 on Friday in the Boston area, so when I got home from work, I felt compelled to make some Sangria!
RaspberryPeachSangria

Sangria is such a perfect summer drink and no matter what fruity combinations you try, it’s impossible to go wrong! Here’s one of my favorites to make.

Raspberry Peach White Sangria

You’ll need:

  • Ripe peaches (I used both white flesh and the regular type for color variation)
  • Raspberries
  • White wine (I used Chardonnay, but you can use anything you like!)
  • Ginger Ale

To make, cut the peaches into slices and fill the bottom of a pitcher with the peaches and raspberries (I always go heavy on the fruit!). Fill the pitcher about halfway with wine (I used a little more than half a bottle), let soak 30mins to an hour in the fridge, covered.
Sangria-inprogress

When ready to drink, pour in the ginger ale (enough to fill pitcher or to taste). Stir and sip. Enjoy!
masonlove

More Sangria Tastiness
Here’s another recipe I really like for white wine Sangria when you’re looking for something more citrus-y

And when you just want the traditional red, here’s one you should try (we modified this a bit to make it easier, and it turned out delicious!)!
All you’ll need is:

  • 1 large orange, cut into round slices
  • 1 lemon, cut into round slices
  • Ginger ale
  • 2 Buck Chuck (Trader Joe’s red wine)

For the rare times when there’s leftover fruit in the pitcher, here’s a fun treat you can endulge in…
Just top the fruit off with Vanilla ice Cream!!
drunkfruit&cream

What’s your go to for Sangria? Do you have any favorite combinations? Favorite recipes?

In Love with TABATA

tabataAlmost a year ago I started spinning. Spin has become one of my new favorite ways to get my exercise because I always feel like I really worked hard after (I’m literally almost falling over or afraid I might almost pass out). I can FEEL the burn during and after and I’m always soaked in sweat.

Class is every Tuesday night and my spin instructor likes to add a little extra burn to our class at the end … Probably 3 out of 4 classes she’ll lead us in some TABATA exercises. The first time she introduced me to Tabata I really thought I was going to pass out walking out of class and over to the train. It made me SO tired! But that’s the kind of thing I love. I love a good challenging workout that makes me feel dead after:)

What is this TABATA you ask?!

I had to look it up after the first class because she didnt give us much of an overview. Tabata Interval Training is basically an intense way to workout (started in Japan), which you can do without needing much more than a workout mat. That’s why it’s perfect for doing at home on your own. You do 4 exercises for 20 secs each with 10 sec rests in between each. So exercise 20sec, rest for 10, and repeat 2 times. The point is to keep moving as much as you can and keep your heart rate up.  Get ready to sweat.

The exercises you do during those sets is obviously up to you but in general, the ones I’ve seen are pretty common.

  • Sit-ups/crunches (bicycle crunches are good too)
  • Push-ups
  • Squats/Jump squats
  • Lunges/Jump lunges
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Jumping jacks:)
  • Plank

Try ones you’re comfortable with and start out slow! I’d also recommend warming up a bit or at least stretching before you start.

The way to go at home is downloading a Tabata timer app. This lets you keep your hands and eyes free and will beep/ding when you need to start, rest, and stop. With the app I downloaded ($0.99), you can set up how many exercises you want to do, how long you want to do the exercise for, and how long to rest in between.

Pick out 4 (or 8 to do once through), know what order you’ll do them in, start your timer, and get going.

What I really love about TABATA is you can get a good workout in under 10 mins! Really handy if you feel like you don’t have anytime to exercise. No excuse not to try this!! :) Plus it’s fun to say the word Tabata.

Here are some example workouts you can try, with more info:

I hope you end up loving it as much as I do! Let me know if you have any tips or know of any other sites that have good Tabata exercises.

Time to Read (and make some changes)

Wheat-BellyWheat Belly is a recent book about by Cardiologist William Davis my oldest sister told me about since she just finished reading it. Yep, it might sound pretty gross and you may not want to read it for fear it will make you want to cut out wheat, but that’s exactly why I want to finish reading it.

After stocking up on Chia seeds and trying to get into the habit of making fruity breakfast smoothies a few weeks ago, I have started trying to pay attention to what I eat at all times of the day– whether that means remembering to pack a healthy salad for lunch or saying no to the always fully stocked snack cupboard in my office, not going overboard with the sugar and cream in my coffee, etc. I have yet to feel that Chia seeds “give me energy” like everyone has been saying but since I have them every morning now, I’ve realized I don’t feel as starving when 11:50am rolls around – when my stomach would typically be starting to growl. Chia seeds affect everyone a little differently I guess.

My sister mentioned the book Wheat Belly on Father’s Day when we were all on Google Hangout as a family. She challenged us to give up wheat and said she’s only been off it for a few weeks herself and has already lost a good amount of weight. I thought, why not give it a try? I know so many people that say they feel so much better being gluten-free. Some of the stuff in Davis’ book is just so interesting too. His main point (which you can find just in the intro) makes me want to buy the book to read more:

I believe that the increased consumption of grains – or more accurately, the increased consumption of this genetically-altered thing called modern wheat – explains the contrast between slender, sedentary people of the fifties and overweight twenty-first century people, triathletes included.

So I have been off wheat so far for about 1.5 weeks.

Have I noticed anything different? So far, nothing too drastic.

Is it hard? Yes. Well, it can be very difficult on certain days.

My first week was almost a bust. There was one day when I simply forgot I was doing this no wheat thing and ate a cookie. Another day when I had half of a cupcake jar (couldn’t let that go to waste!)… and yes, last Wednesday I ate one slice of pizza. Baby steps right?! The hardest for me is definitely baked goods. Especially since our office often has cookies and cupcakes just sitting around….

platter of cookies

I’ve got too big of a sweet tooth! :) I’m not going super strict with this no-wheat thing yet. I haven’t been reading all the labels scouting for gluten. I think I just have to start slow … and we’ll see what happens!

At least things like this aren’t off-limits!

Ice Cream salmon, shish kebabs, potatoes

On Saturday, I went to a Birthday party and they had lots of yummy pizza. Gluten-free pizza crust (using rice flour)! It was some of the best homemade pizza dough I’ve ever tasted. I’m not normally one to like the taste of things like this that are actually “good” for you, so it was exciting to try this! :)

So. I’ll leave you with this… let’s get baking!
Gluten Free No-Bake Cookies

How about you, readers — what do you think of a wheat-free diet? Are any of you gluten free eaters?