Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp


Does anyone else have a hate/love relationship with September?  I mean, it's one of those months that sort of punch you in the face.  Even if the end of August brings those, "I'm ready for routine/getting rid of my children" type of vibes, September still feels like someone threw a bucket of water over my head.  Now that it's nearly over (and by the way, how, how, how is that possible), I'm finally feeling like I'm getting used to the new schedule.  New ages, new teachers, new activities, new homework, new everything it seems.  So maybe, just maybe, now that I'm settling in... I'll blog more?  

Currently, I'm still throwing dinner together at the last minute.  I'm still going to the grocery store almost every day because I can't seem to meal plan.  Will I get there?  Please, October, please??  

   But sometimes random meals are the best kind!  Like this slow roasted spaghetti squash paired with caramelized brussel sprouts and butter-poached shrimp.  Perfect meal for the first few days of fall... because it's official now, friends.  It's fall.  Time to STOP SLACKING (sorry it's me, not you).    

Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp
(Serves 4-6)

1 spaghetti squash
3 cups shaved brussel sprouts
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp water
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  With a knife or fork, poke holes in the spaghetti squash and place on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Once cool enough to handle, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  Set aside.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add brussel sprouts and sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In same pan, heat water over medium heat.  Add the remaining 7 tablespoons of butter and let melt into water.  Once melted, add the shrimp and cook for a few minutes per side, until shrimp turns pink.  Add brussel sprouts to pan and stir.  Using a fork, scrap spaghetti squash into pan with shrimp and sprouts.  Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.  

One-Pot Pasta + Black Bean Brownies


Let's talk about friends for a second.  There are so many different kinds... the friends you've had since you were little, the ones that you don't see much but when you do can pick up right where you left off, the mom friends that just GET IT, and the ones you meet later in life but you instantly feel like you've known them forever.  One is silver and the other gold, or something like that.  Anyway, I have only known Savannah Guthrie for a couple of years, but it seems like much longer.  She just GETS it, and is a pretty amazing human being as well.  Just look at how I'm cuddled next to her in the photo below, completely ignoring my husband...   

It's always fun cooking with her (AND Carson) - if you missed the One-Pot Mexican Pasta and the Black Bean Brownies I made yesterday morning, you can find the recipes here and here.

Photos by Nathan Congleton

Creamy Tortilla Soup


*UPDATE: Details about Tortillas below...

You guys, I have a problem.  I have had one particular thing on my to-do list for, oh, probably seven months now.  Maybe longer, but I don't want to admit that.  And by the way, it's not the only thing on there.  I can't seem to knock off "dry clean wedding dress" or "DENTIST!!" either.  But this one really bothers me and yes, even more than preserving my memories or my teeth.  My camera is dead and I don't have a charger!!!!  I have been using my iPhone for every, single blog photo for... I don't know how long.  All I need to do is re-order a charger.  How hard can that be??  WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!  Don't answer that at all.  Anyway, I guess I'm telling you now so that you cut me some slack (either that or light a fire under my ass).  I mean, look at that photo up there!  It's not bad for an iPhone, but do you think I could have cleaned up the background a little?  No, because I am the type of person that can't knock things off her to-do list.   

  Ok, want to hear a little about this soup before I sign off?  It was delicious.  My 7 year-old and I made it together, with no real plan or recipe, and it turned out so yummy.  It's only creamy because you blend the veggies at the end, well, that and the teeeeensy bit of butter.  Otherwise it's bright and refreshing and a great end-of-summer meal.     

Creamy Tortilla Soup
Serves 6-8

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups shredded roasted chicken (already cooked)
Optional toppings: queso fresco, avocado, cilantro, jalapeño

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add bell peppers and onion, and season with salt and pepper.  Let cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring briefly.  Add garlic, and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add cumin, chili powder and garlic powder, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in tomato paste until vegetables are coated, and sauté for another couple of minutes.  Add chicken stock and water and bring to a boil.  Lower heat, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Again, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Turn off heat, and with an immersion blender*, puree soup until it reaches your desired consistency (I like mine slightly chunky still).  Stir in butter and chicken, and turn heat back to low, cooking until butter melts and chicken warms.  Serve hot with optional toppings.

*If you do not have an immersion blender, you may ladle soup into a blender, returning it to the pot once blended.  You also do not have to blend the soup at all if you prefer a chunkier tortilla soup.

*Many of you helped me realize I didn't mention anything about the tortillas.  Doh!!  I like to crisp mine up and then add them to the soup while serving.  Below is how I do it, but it's pretty easy to change up (i.e. you may use flour tortillas or different spices).  

Crunchy Tortilla Strips
Makes 2 cups

6 small corn tortillas
1 Tbsp olive oil
Chili powder
Garlic Salt
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Slice tortillas into small strips and place in bowl.  Add olive oil and desired amount of spices.  Toss until combined.  Place on baking sheet and cook (shaking the pan a few times to prevent from burning) until golden and crispy, 15-20 minutes.

Rapunzel Cake


I am all birthday caked out.  My daughter Etta turned 4 on Monday, and she's only been anticipating her birthday since, oh I don't know, a few minutes after turning 3??  And, by the way, she's pretty convinced she'll turn 5 next week.  She is NOT understanding my explanation of a year!  I started out all patient and kind with my words, and now I'm so exhausted that I just say, "Etta!  A year is a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time.  You will feel like you are 4 forever.  And p.s. Christmas is far away too."  (Even though OMG no it's not.)  As a kid, I always thought it was so weird that my mom didn't seem to care about her birthdays BUT NOW I GET IT.  

Alright, birthday pessimism aside, I really did enjoy making her Rapunzel cake!  I had never worked with fondant before and I was terrified.  However, I found by using lots of powdered sugar to help roll it out and keeping what I wasn't using covered with a damp towel, it was pretty easy to use!  Of course, I have not mastered making it look smooth (I also don't have any fondant tools), but for this cake I was lucky because I was scoring the sides anyway to make it look like a tower.  I used white fondant and then sprayed the cake with this Silver Color Mist.  I used colorful fondant and a little fondant mold for the flowers, vines and birds.  Then, I used a tube of yellow frosting for her hair.  

One thing I would have done differently - more buttercream inside!  No one really likes to EAT fondant, and I found when I cut the cake the fondant took the buttercream with it.  I would have sliced each layer and slathered buttercream inside to ensure each bite had enough.

Finally, I followed this recipe for the cake.
Have great weekends!

Slow Cooker Enchilada Orzo


Is anyone else excitedly pulling out their slow cooker in anticipation of fall?!  I am, however I pull it out all year long (best tool for when it's hot and humid outside).  The other day I was obsessing over crockpot recipes when I found this one and decided to make it right away.  The best part?  I had all the ingredients!  Because more than half of them are canned... easiest thing ever.  Also, most delicious thing ever.  We served it as a side at a BBQ but it would also be perfect for the main dish with a salad or green veggie.  And my two-year-old ate it!  Success!

Ok, back to giving myself M&M's for going pee pee in the potty in an attempt to get that two-year-old interested...  

Slow Cooker Enchilada Orzo
Recipe adapted from here
Serves 6-8

1 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
2 15 oz. can mild enchilada sauce
1 4.5 oz. can green chiles, drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can corn kernels, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup vegetable broth, or more as needed
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
1 heaping cup shredded Mexican cheese
2 cups uncooked orzo
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: cilantro, avocado, jalapeños, green onions

Place tomatoes, enchilada sauce, chiles, black beans, corn, vegetable broth, cream cheese and shredded cheese in the slow cooker and stir to combine.  Cover, and cook on high for 3 hours.  Add orzo and cook for another 30 minutes.  Add more vegetable broth if necessary.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with optional toppings.

Veggie Tacos + Strawberry Salsa


I'm back in New York!  I have a chronic case of the "Sunday Scaries" over the upcoming back-to-school season!  And I have an equal amount of ecstatic joy for that momentous Tuesday after Labor Day!  I need it to be here NOW, no - wait, I'm not ready, just kidding... HURRY UP!  I'm manic.

Emotional roller coaster aside, it feels good to be home where everything is familiar and friends and neighbors are readily available to commiserate over the re-entry into reality.  It also felt great to be back at Today this morning, and I'm looking forward to a couple more appearances in September.  This morning I was fortunate to grab fresh, garden-grown vegetables from this truck to make Veggie Tacos with a Tomato and Strawberry Salsa.       

Click HERE for video and recipes.

And for your enjoyment, a really attractive photo of myself...

Photos by the talented Nathan Congleton at TODAY

Braided Nutella Pastry


Every summer while I'm on vacation, I try to bake something slightly more challenging (for example, these bagels from long, long ago... practically olden times).  A few days ago, I enlisted my daughter to help me with this sweet pastry that's smothered with her favorite food group: Nutella.  That girl has been known to dip her morning VITAMINS in Nutella.  One day she'll probably be a raw, vegan chef but for now, she would live off of gum and the hazelnut chocolate spread if I let her.  

{Side note: I obviously stress over her sweet tooth and lack of love for vegetables (I'm a human mom, after all), however, I also strive to teach my children balance.  Strict limitations are something I don't understand, because what's left is curiosity and desire.  Everything in moderation, including moderation (a wise woman once said).  WE ONLY LIVE ONCE.  The End of side note.}

 This sweet dough was delicious, and need I say anything about Nutella?  My daughter had a BLAST helping, and it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.  That said, I also didn't have my beloved standing mixer, and it's been awhile since I've kneaded dough by hand.  The result was a slightly denser dough than I would have liked... but I will definitely make this again at home because just look at how lovely The Baker Chick's fluffy dough came out?

Recipe HERE.

When you're renting a house and can't find a rolling pin...

My little helper...


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