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!

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?

What’s the deal with CHIA?

Not chia pets, Chia seeds!

Another newish fad super food… and it’s time to give it a try!

ChiaSeedsInWater-850x566from MindBodyGreen

I’ve started having a yogurt and salad at lunch and yesterday morning I woke up and made a Greek yogurt/frozen berry smoothie. It made my day — not only did it taste good but I felt healthier after I had consumed it as if I had just ingested a glorious superfood. I didn’t like Greek yogurt very much at first and couldn’t understand people’s obsession with it…. the consistency was just a little too chunky for my liking but once you get used to it, you don’t notice that as much!

DSC03039

Then there is this fad all over the place with Chia seeds. I scoffed at first because people around me were going nuts about it. I figured its just one of this things that’s gonna fade like acai berries…. It hasn’t really been around long enough for many scientific studies but the things I’ve read about it are enough to make me want to try. I tested it out a few weeks ago in juice and it really felt like just drinking a bunch of kiwi seeds with a little crunch. I happen to love kiwi seeds so I don’t mind the chia:)

The stuff I’ve read sounds good and listening to friends rave about them is as good of a review as any (;))…. so I thought, why not? I stopped by Trader Joe’s and picked up a bag for $5. I had a tablespoon in my leftover frozen smoothie last night. I’ll probably start slow… 1-2 Tbsp a day, but I’ve read you can have up to 4 Tbsp. and it’s good for you! I’ll put them in smoothies and sprinkle on my salads at lunch. If you have any advice for me with this, let me know! Ways to take it, how much to consume,… how you’ve seen results… I’m all ears!

chia seeds from Trader Joe's

What’s for Dinner | Chipotle at Home

[a late Cinco de Mayo post]

A couple of nights ago we were having friends over for dinner and we were racking our brains trying to figure out what to make. One couple that was coming was vegetarian and one person we were having over was allergic to gluten, so we decided on burritos/taco salad. The guy that couldn’t have the tortillas could just make a naked burrito or have taco salad. We decided that would be the easiest, so we set off for the store. On our way we realized we had been craving Chipotle lately, so I started scouring the web for a copy-cat Chipotle rice recipe. I stumbled on this recipe from Skinny Taste that seemed simple enough, so we picked up the ingredients we needed and put everything together at home. This meal –complete with two kinds of beans, optional chicken or steak, cheese, sour cream, salsa, homemade guacamole, tomatoes, and lettuce, and sauteed peppers & onions– took around an hour and a half to prepare. The Cilantro Lime Rice really hit the spot!

cilantro lime rice

Here’s how you do it (we doubled this recipe):

  • 1 cup extra long grain rice or basmati rice
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • 3 tsp vegetable oil

Add rice, water, 1 tsp oil and salt to a small pot and bring it all to a boil. Turn down to low and cook until the water evaporates for about 15 mins. It should look fairly dry throughout. Turn off the heat and keep the pot covered for an additional 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine chopped cilantro, lime juice, rice and remaining oil and toss until completely mixed. Then spoon the rice onto your tortilla, top with your favorite burrito toppings, and enjoy!

Wednesday Roundup | Goin’ Fresh

My mouth’s been watering over these salads recently since the weather’s been getting warmer … and I just can’t wait for the veggies in grocery stores to get fresher! Enjoy these yummy tomato, avocado, etc. salad ideas!