When I think about Thanksgiving, I picture the gathering of friends with armfuls of trays and dishes, surrounding a hot oven. An entire holiday centered around savory and sweet recipes to fill our stomachs–is there much more you could wish for in a holiday? I think not!

Instead of the traditional menu of roasted turkey and gravy, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie, I’m going to shake things up a bit and throw some extra thanks in the giving! Here is my 2017 Thanksgiving menu along with two of my favorite Gobble Day recipes.

New 2017 Menu:

  • Smoked Turkey with Gravy
  • Corn Muffin Stuffing with Sausage and Mushrooms
  • Black Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • (My new) Steamed then Sautéed Haricot Verts with Cipollini Onions and Gruyere Cheese
  • Sweet Potato Pot de Crème

 

Steamed then Sautéed Haricot Verts with Cipollini Onions and Gruyere Cheese 

We all love a little green bean casserole with our Thanksgiving dinner so I’ve come up with version 2.0! My new recipe: steamed then sautéed haricot verts, garnished with a creamy homemade mushroom sauce with gruyere cheese and topped with caramelized cipollini onions. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Makes four servings
Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced~ I prefer baby bella
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ½ tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ cup grated gruyere
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound haricot verts, trimmed
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 8 cipollini onions

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and cook until tender and caramelized.
  3. Add mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms start to caramelize.
  4. Add garlic and thyme then sauté until fragrant.
  5. Sprinkle with flour and stir for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add white wine to reduce and deglaze the pan.
  7. Add broth and cream then simmer until it thickens.
  8. Add cheese and let it melt, season with salt and pepper then remove from heat.
  9. Toast pumpkin seeds in a sauté pan until they are fragrant then let them cool.
  10. Bring a pot of water (with steamer) to a boil, add the haricot verts, and cook until they are al dente. Once cooked, place them in cold water.
  11. When ready to assemble, sauté the beans in a little EVOO (extra virgin olive oli) to rewarm them then place them on a plate. Top the beans with the mushroom sauce and garnish with the toasted pumpkin seeds.

 

Sweet Potato Pots de Crème

Pots de Crème is a French dessert traditionally made with chocolate that dates back to the 17th century. I figured, since sweet potato casserole is a timeless and traditional favorite served with Thanksgiving dinner, why not transform it into a spiced creamy dessert. After a little testing, here is my recipe, it’s even topped off with a delicious marshmallow merengue!

Step 1: Sweet Potato Custard

Makes six individual ramekins
Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • ¾ cup sweet potato puree
  • 7 egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, milk, syrup, and sweet potato then stir.
  3. Bring to a simmer then remove from heat.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and salt. Very slowly, in a small stream, pour the sweet potato mixture into the egg mixture while whisking. Do not allow the eggs to curdle.
  5. Place six, four-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan. (Be sure the pan has high vertical sides.) Pour the sweet potato filling into each ramekin leaving half an inch space at the top. P
  6. Pour hot water into the roasting pan until the water reaches halfway up the ramekins then place the roasting pan on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the custard has set.
  7. When the custard has set, it will still have a jiggle to it. Allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes then carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath.
  8. Place the custard-filled ramekins in the refrigerator and allow them to finish setting for at least four hours or overnight.

Step 2: Homemade Marshmallow Spread

If you choose not to take the time to make your own marshmallow spread, you can use Fluff found in your local grocery store, BUT it’s worth making from scratch (to increase the “yum” factor).

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons of water
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • 4 ounces egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 vanilla bean pod split and scraped

Directions:

  1. Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan then warm over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer, typically 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. While the sugar is heating, beat the egg whites in a cold bowl into soft peak so they’re ready at the same time as the sugar. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium until the egg whites are foamy. Increase the speed to high, and add in the cream of tartar and salt. Continue to mix until soft peaks form.
  3. Once the sugar mixtures reach 240°F, carefully remove them from the heat and let rest for about 20 seconds.
  4. With the mixer running on high, slowly stream the sugar mixture into the egg whites. Continue to mix for 7 to 8 minutes or until the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature. Add in the vanilla; mix until medium-stiff peaks form. You can store in a jar in the refrigerator about 10 days.

Assembly:

Remove the pots de crème from the refrigerator, top with the marshmallow spread then brown using a torch or pacing under a broiler. Yum!

 

Happy Thanksgiving from our table to yours!

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one kitchen utensil, what would it be? For me, it would be my cast iron skillet – no question.

My cast iron skillet was the first pan I bought when I got married in 1971, because I knew that it would be with me no matter what happens! After more than 45 years of use, I am convinced that you would have to go out of your way to ruin cast iron. As long as you don’t use soap to clean it and dry it immediately after cleaning, a cast iron pan will be with you forever.

After cleaning, I dry my pan on a stove-top burner, re-season it with a little canola oil, and let it cool before I store it away.

It is no secret that cast iron pans make the juiciest crispy skinned chicken and the best sear on a rib eye steak! But aside from cuts of meat, they are also perfect for making a delightful, puffy pancake called a Dutch Baby. This is a great treat that rises just like Yorkshire pudding. Puffy and showy, it’s visually enticing as well as delicious with a custardy flavor.

 

Cast Iron Pan Recipe – Dutch Baby Pancake

Serves 4

Note that ingredients must be at room temperature since they are going into a VERY hot pan.

Batter:

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Remaining Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in two, room temperature
  • 2 large Fuji Apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Confectioners sugar for finishing

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

For the batter, whisk eggs, cream, flour, vanilla, salt, and ½ tsp. cinnamon in a medium bowl until smooth – set aside.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a 10” cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and sprinkle with brown sugar and ½ tsp. cinnamon. Cook, tossing often, until apple is coated and softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Wipe out skillet and heat in oven until very hot, about 20 minutes. Carefully add remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter to the hot skillet, tilting to coat bottom and sides. Add cooked apple to center of skillet; pour batter over. Bake until pancake is puffed and golden brown around the edges and the center is set but still custardy, between 12 and 15 minutes.

Serve drizzled with apple cider syrup (below) and/or sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

 

Apple Cider Syrup

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bring cider, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon to a boil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and boil gently, whisking occasionally, until thick and syrupy, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Beach to Beacon is over and what a good run it was! We moved to Fort Williams for all the events and it worked out well. The new tent was amazing an we got all 500 people through the buffet lines in approximately 20 minutes!

When I think of Memorial Day, I think of the beginning of summer. When I think of Labor Day, I think of the end of summer—the last opportunity to have a party centered around the grill.

Here are a few fun facts about Labor Day that I found:

  • 67% of Americans will be barbequing on Labor Day according to a Budweiser study performed in 2016. That’s 214 million people! 150 million Americans expect to bite into a juicy burger, compared to 109 million hot dog eaters.
  • Barbecue chicken (40%) now edges out steak (37%) and ribs (32%) on Labor Day plates.
  • The total number of hot dogs eaten between Memorial Day and Labor Day is 7 billion, about 818 per second!

Now, I have never been traditional—I even wear white after Labor Day. So, for my holiday get-together, I am going with an all-grill event featuring Grilled Chicken and Grilled Salmon. Here is my menu:

Appetizers:
Grilled Watermelon Cubes with Grilled General Tso’s Pork Belly
Grilled Spicy Jump Shrimp with Shoshito Peppers

Entrees:
Hot Shot Grilled Salmon (recipe follows)
Greek Tzatziki Grilled Chicken Thighs (recipe follows)

Sides:
Grilled Potato Salad with Nancy’s Sherry Honey Vinaigrette
Grilled Asparagus
Grilled Peaches with Gino and French Vanilla Ice Cream (recipe follows)
*Gino is a Swedish dessert consisting of chopped fresh fruit and melted chocolate. 

 

Hot Shot Grilled Salmon
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Sriracha
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 4 – 6 oz. salmon fillets, skin-on and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Make marinade: In a large bowl, whisk together Sriracha, lemon juice, and orange marmalade.
  2. Add salmon to a large Ziplock bag or baking dish and pour marinade over. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least three hours, or overnight.
  3. When ready to grill, heat grill to high. Pat the salmon dry. Oil grates and add salmon. Grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
  4. Garnish with chives.

 

Greek Tzatziki Grilled Chicken Thighs
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Greek Seasoning (any brand, can be found in the seasoning aisle of your local grocery store)
  • 4 – 6 oz. skin-on chicken thighs
  • Chopped Salad
    • 1 European cucumber, chopped
    • 20+ olives, pitted
    • 4 tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 small red onion, chopped
    • 2 oz. feta cheese
  • Tzatziki Sauce
    • 2 cups Greek Yogurt
    • 1/2 European cucumber, peeled and diced
    • 3 garlic cloves, grated
    • 1 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
    • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Make marinade: In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and greek seasonings.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to a large Ziploc bag or baking dish. Pour over marinade and let sit in the refrigerator for at least three hours, up to overnight.
  3. When ready to grill, heat grill to high. Oil grates and add chicken. Grill until no longer pink. Set aside on a plate under tented foil to rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Prepare the chopped salad of cucumbers, pitted olives, red onion, tomatoes, and feta cheese.
  5. Prepare tzatziki sauce by combining the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  6. Plate meal starting with tzatziki on the bottom, add the chicken thighs, and top with the chopped salad.

 

Grilled Peach with Gino and French Vanilla Ice Cream
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 peaches, pitted and cut into half
  • Chopped strawberries, kiwi, and bananas
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • Honey water – 1 tbs honey mixed with 2 tbs hot water
  • 4 tbs white chocolate, grated
  • French Vanilla ice cream
  • Chopped fresh mint, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Mix together strawberries, kiwi, and bananas with lemon juice.
  2. Brush the cut side of the peach with honey water and place cut side down on a hot grill for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Turn peaches over and placed chopped fruit on the top of the peach. Garnish with white chocolate. Close the top of the grill to melt the chocolate. Check the peaches periodically; it will only take a few minutes for the chocolate to melt.
  4. Remove and serve in a martini glass with french vanilla ice cream and garnish with chopped mint.

Newly engaged? Congratulations! After showing your ring to everyone that you can, reality sets in and you wonder, “What is next?” My guess is you already know how you want to look and what kind of dress you want to wear because you have been dreaming of this since you were a little girl.

Next, you and your fiancé need to decide on a few things before you tackle the “list”. This is the list before the list–like picking out wedding bands, etc….

Consider these items:

  • How long do you want to be engaged before you actually marry? This might be determined by your budget. It also might be determined by what special touches you want to put into your wedding, such as a custom-made gown, or favors with logos on them, or maybe you need summer produce to make homemade jam favors.
  • How do you pick a date? One that works for everyone to be able to come? Who is everyone? You cannot determine if ALL of your friends and family can come! What dates do you want to avoid? What date would be meaningful for you and your fiancé? Perhaps the day you decided you fell in love! Some cultures use traditional methods to choose a date—Japanese families check out the koyomi, an ancient astrological calendar, to pick the most favorable day, while ancient Greeks used divined pig entrails!
  • In which season or month do you envision your wedding taking place? My husband and I chose spring because it is the beginning of fresh flowers and early produce.
  • What theme do you have in mind? This is your first party as a couple. What do you want to say about you as a couple? Do you want it to be casual or elegant or city chic?
  • Do you have a color palette in mind? If you decide on a fall wedding, oranges and yellows and reds are a natural match to the leaves on the trees. An Easter wedding might be all levels of pastels. Or, perhaps you have favorite color you already have in mind that you want to incorporate.
  • Have you dreamed of a wedding in a tent, on the shore or in a barn? The availability of the venue that you would like is key and can likely determine the date of your wedding. My husband and I got married in the March in Virginia. Now we live in Maine and March in Maine is still cold and snowy. When we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary I really wanted to have our party in a tent along the shore with heaters and hope that snow fell! As it turned out, it was a beautiful sunny 68-degree day and we had our party on a Casco Bay Cruise ship!
  • If you are getting married in a church, does it require pre-marital counseling? Most do. If yours does not you may want to consider this step. After living by yourself you might need to learn how to live with another person!
  • How do you meld two apartments/houses into one? Who moves in with who? What furniture do you keep and what do you sell or recycle? Do you need all new kitchenware, china, and glassware? You will need to decide for your registries.
  • Finally, how much are you willing to spend? It is all about the numbers. Think about what is important to you and set a realistic budget.

Wedding planning can be stressful, but remember to have fun with it! There is always a lot to think about; here are more tips from us and check out this awesome checklist from Wedding Wire!

The Age of Pinterest has introduced many trends in the fashion, crafting, design, and food worlds. I feel as if each month has a trendy food or ingredient that everyone is using. One that I have loved is the noodle alternative, “zoodles”! Turning zucchini (or another vegetable) into a faux-pasta not only adds numerous nutritional benefits, but it also helps turn traditional meals into gluten-free versions. Plus, they are always delicious!

When making zoodles, most recipes tell you to use a special tool called a “spiralizer” which easily turns zucchini, sweet potato, or squash into perfectly sized noodles for any dish. However, I’ve found that a simple vegetable peeler also does the trick. Simply use the peeler to create thin ribbons by running it down the length of the vegetable. You can then julienne the ribbons into narrow strips that resemble fettucine noodles.

Here are two recipes I love that incorporate zoodles. Enjoy!

 

First, with summer in full swing, I thought you might like a super simple gluten-free pasta salad to-go! Perfect for a day at the beach or just lunch at your desk. One thing I love about the recipe is how easily you can tweak it to add in proteins you prefer. You’ll see my recipe calls for edamame, but I have swapped this out for chickpeas or chicken before, depending on what I had on hand.

 

Zucchini Spiral Salad
Makes 2 Mason Jars

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups spiralized, shredded, or thinly sliced zucchini
  • 3/4 cup edamame, shelled
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in 1/2
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons kalamata or black olives, sliced

Avocado and Spinach Dressing

  • 1/2 cup fresh packed spinach
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. In a blender, mix the dressing ingredients until smooth.
  2. Split the dressing in half and place in the bottom of each Mason jar.
  3. Add celery on top of dressing.
  4. Add peppers on top of celery, then edamame.
  5. Then, add feta cheese, tomatoes, and olives.
  6. Finally, add zucchini on top in each jar.
  7. Cover and refrigerate (will keep for about 5 days).
  8. When ready to enjoy, shake to mix, then just eat out of the jar!

 

Second, if you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative to a favorite take-out dinner, try my Shrimp Pad Thai with Zucchini Noodles!

Nancy’s Pad Thai
Makes two servings

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1/8 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • ½ pound butter
  • 1 pound peanut butter

 

  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup of zucchini noodles
  • raw shrimp peeled and deveined
  • *May substitute with ½ cup of cooked sliced chicken
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1/3 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, crushed

Instructions

  1. Melt butter with peanut butter and thin with water as needed.
  2. Mix together all sauce ingredients.
  3. Scramble 2 eggs in a wok on high heat.
  4. Add zucchini noodles and sauté lightly.
  5. Add shrimp and cook until opaque.
  6. Add sauce to finish.
  7. Garnish with peanuts, chopped scallions, cilantro and bean sprouts.