Snow Day Comfort Food: Creamy Buffalo Chicken Soup

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Yesterday into today the Hudson Valley got hit with yet another snow storm. As anticipated, schools were closed and my children rejoiced.  However, after all the shoveling, sleigh riding, and snowman-making that accompanies a snow day, there’s nothing better than warming up with a hot, delicious meal. Today’s comfort food meal is a simple creamy Buffalo Chicken Soup, a spin on my buffalo chicken dip, (as I don’t think it would be acceptable to feed dip to my kids for dinner).

It’s really simple to make- prep took about 10 minutes, and at the end of a cold day, who else wants to have a piece of crusty bread and some spicy chicken soup?

I’ve included my original recipe below, however, next time I’d add a bit more celery (more like 5 ribs) and perhaps another veggie such as carrots. But that’s just me. You might like it just the way it is. Otherwise, it came out creamy and tasting like a delicious buffalo chicken wing.

BUFFALO CHICKEN CROCKPOT SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 organic boneless skinless chicken breasts rinsed & patted dry
  • 3 ribs chopped celery
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 cups organic low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese salad dressing
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 oz crumbled blue cheese
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place chicken breasts and chopped celery in your crockpot
  2. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium sized saucepan on low, or until melted and frothy. Slowly whisk in flour. Continue to whisk for about 2 minutes or until fully incorporated. Be sure to keep flame low, as to not burn the roux.
  3. While whisking, slowly pour in the 4 cups of chicken stock. Once incorporated, allow mixture to come to a slight boil and thicken, about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat and add Frank’s Red Hot Sauce & blue cheese dressing. Add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper, then set aside to cool slightly.
  5.  About 5 minutes later, add liquid mixture to crockpot. Be sure to fully cover the chicken & celery.
  6. Put the crockpot on low 6-8 hours
  7. Once crockpot cooking has completed, remove chicken breasts and shred using 2 forks.
  8. Add shredded chicken along with shredded sharp cheddar cheese to crockpot and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  9. When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with crumbled blue cheese & a few dashes of hot sauce 

     

    xo Robin

 

Not Your Ordinary Meatloaf

I was raised attending big Sunday family dinners at my grandmother’s house. My mom’s mother was a tiny blonde Irish woman, yet she was married to a full-blooded Italian and cooked THE BEST ITALIAN FOOD I’ve ever tasted in my life. I have so many fond memories of walking into her house with the smell of simmering garlic or freshly made sauce wafting through the air.

Since I’m mainly inspired by my grandmother’s cooking (which included EVERYTHING from scratch), I will assume that’s why I tend to put an Italian spin on many of my dishes.

Last night for dinner we were a little lacking in the meat department – all I could find in the freezer was a pound of organic ground turkey – so I immediately figured: meatloaf. But, upon looking in the refrigerator to find fresh spinach, garlic, and mozzarella, I knew this meatloaf would be anything but my ordinary recipe. So here’s what I made:

NOT YOUR ORDINARY MEATLOAF

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb organic ground turkey
  • Handful of fresh organic spinach
  • 1/2 lb organic uncured bacon (can be substituted with prosciutto)
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 1 egg (slightly beaten)
  • 1 small white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 ribs celery
  • A few dashes Worcester sauce
  • A few squirts Ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil (or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray
  2. Prep the veggies & herbs: dice the onion, carrot, & celery, mince the garlic cloves, and chop [or measure out] the herbs.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients EXCEPT for the fresh spinach, mozzarella, and bacon.
  4. Take half of the turkey mixture and form into a long flat shape (see pics below) on the baking sheet. Next, take half of the spinach and place it on top of the meat. Cover the spinach with all the sliced mozzarella, then top with the remaining spinach. Finally, take the rest of the turkey mixture and carefully cover the top, being sure to seal the sides together with your fingers so the cheese doesn’t leak out while cooking.
  5. Using one slice at a time, cover the meatloaf with the bacon. (Note: you do not need to cover the bottom). Top the bacon with a few grinds of black pepper.
  6. Cook meatloaf uncovered for 1 hour. Let rest for about 10 minutes until cutting into it. Enjoy!

RESULT: My hubby loved it! I served the meatloaf with mashed potatoes, and the combination actually played out well. In my mind it tasted like an Italian bacon turkey burger and the mashed potatoes acted as the fries. 😉

Hope you enjoy this recipe. I’d love to hear about your unique meatloaf recipes too!

xo Robin

An afternoon of Arts & Crafts with the Kiddos

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Does reading the title of this post fill you with creative, happy thoughts? Or does it make you cringe with horrible visions of spilled acrylic paint and glue encrusted on your couches? I have to honestly say I vary between the two. Today, I fortunately felt positive about the concept of arts & crafts, and spent most of the afternoon creating beautiful keepsakes with the kids. First up on our list- canvas painting. My 7 year old LOVES art, so I try to hit up the local stores when they have sales and buy a bunch of items. For the canvas painting, I asked her to make something Valentine’s Day themed, as we don’t have many decorations. The results exceeded my expectations, as you can see below.

 

Next up, salt dough. This super simple recipe is as follows, and you can make anything from ornaments to hand/footprints (which is what we made)….the opportunities are endless. I have to say this is always a fun project, as all the girls enjoy the entire process of making the dough, completing their unique prints / designs, and finally painting them (after being cooked in the oven). And the best part- NO MESS. Seriously parent friendly. Just had to watch that my 1 year old didn’t try and eat the dough lol.

SALT DOUGH

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Salt
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Warm Water

Directions:

In a large bowl mix together the salt and flour. Gradually add the warm water until a dough begins to form. (If it’s sticky, knead a bit more.) That’s it!!

*When we made the handprint keepsakes, our next steps were to split the dough into three equal balls. We slightly flattened each ball with a baking sheet until they were large enough to fit each child’s hand. Firmly press their hand into the dough to make a print. You can also use a dowel or knife to write names , dates, or small designs surrounding the hand print. Once done, bake in a 250 degree oven on a baking sheet until dough is completely dried (approximately 3 hours). Let cool overnight, and then feel free to paint using acrylic paints (washable ones won’t stick). *

**A fun idea is to make paw prints of a pet for your loved one. A friend of mine is a professional dog sitter and made a paw print salt dough ornament for all of her clients last year. **

**ONE MORE fun idea I plan on trying in the fall is to make the salt dough, cut out large leaves using a cookie cutter, and bake into the shape of a bowl. After painting shades of the changing leaves, it will make a nifty little keepsake bowl. Here’s the link to the blog post where I first saw this: http://meaningfulmama.com/salt-dough-leaf-bowls.html

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Last but not least, the girls and I made brownies. Perhaps not an arts & craft, but we did it together. In my mind cooking is an art, and I love sharing time being creative with my kiddos. Afternoon success!!

 

 

 

The Cozy Trend

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Anyone who’s remotely connected to social media knows that the newest winter trend is surrounding the Danish concept of “Hygge” [pronounced hoo-ga] aka coziness. I’m not knocking it- trust me, I’m all about wrapping yourself in a warm blanket and sitting by a fire. (In fact I have quite an obsession with buying throw blankets & candles….but that’s a whole other blog post). I guess what I’m trying to say, is that It’s funny to me to see something that has always been considered our family winter norms receive such publicity. Neither myself nor my husband are of Danish descent, yet we always tend to “hunker down” during the cold winter months and utilize our love for cooking, candles, comfy clothes or blankets, and most importantly- family time. It’s a season of reflection and feeding our souls (both figuratively & literally lol). My 3 girls tend to get cabin fever and we take them to a movie or bowling or on play dates, but the nonstop weekend plans slow down a bit between January & February.

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With that said, if you’re someone like me who’s always on the go and could use a little down time, I’d like to share my top 10 ways to adapt to a “hygge” way of life:

1. Candles

Lots of candles. There’s something soothing about the look and smell of a candle that eases our mind.

*Recommendation: Some of my favorite candles can be found at www.dwhome.com . Especially the black currant pumpkin one *

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2. Aromatherapy

I’m still learning about different essential oils myself, but I have to say that certain scents truly calm the mind and body. For me, its lavender (surprise! lol). Not only is it my favorite scent, but when I put it in the diffuser, my troubles tend to feel a little smaller. Other times, when I’m looking to feel renewed and rejuvenated, I prefer eucalyptus. The clean, fresh scent reminds me of a spa & makes me feel like I’m doing a little something special for myself.

*Recommendation: My two favorite brands are dōTERRA and Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic *

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3. Yoga & Pilates

Despite being lean and occasionally running, I prefer more low impact, controlled sports. Pilates gives me an excellent opportunity to strengthen & lengthen my muscles as well as my core. I remember last summer when I tried my first Pilates class. I figured it would be nice and easy going, followed by a glass of wine…..did I mention that this class was held outside at a winery?….anyway, this petite blonde instructor comes over with her boombox and a bunch of exercise balls…..”ok, I got this” I thought. WRONG. Teeny tiny movements with that exercise ball used muscles I didn’t even know I had. But, despite the soreness (which lasted 3 DAYS), I have to tell you that there was a sense of quiet and focus that I hadn’t experienced trying other activities. Yoga, obviously, does the same. The practice of Yoga is centered around the breath, and how your breath coordinates with the movements of the body. Incorporating Yoga (specifically hatha and vinyasa styles) into my life has made a HUGE difference. I recommend yoga to anyone and everyone.

*Recommendation: When I didn’t know where to start with my yoga practice, I attended a local beginners class. That’s my #1 recommendation. However, if you’d like a good book to accompany it, try The Living Clearly Method by Hilaria Baldwin. Although not all of us can have 3 children consecutively and look as awesome as her, she really is a relatable public figure with a lot of great knowledge & insight*

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4. Reading

Escaping into a book is perhaps my favorite way to forget life’s stressors. It’s probably my favorite thing to do.period. (YES I know, I’m a nerd). No matter the topic or format (magazine, newspaper, book, etc…) reading is simply nourishment for the body and soul.

*Recommendation: This blog post would never end if I got started recommending books, so I’ll just tell you what I’m currently reading: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Check it out if you like historical fiction.*

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5. Take time with Friends and Family

Living a Hygge lifestyle means slowing down, disconnecting from technology or work, and enjoying time with those that matter most. It doesn’t have to be a huge family reunion, this could simply be a family dinner or inviting another couple over for a board game night (which for me translates to wine and cards against humanity with my best girlfriends 😉 lol ). But seriously, take a day off from work to go hiking with your kids, or go grocery shopping with a fellow mom and do meal prepping together. Just try to slow it down for a minute and have a conversation with those dear to us. Don’t worry, the crazy world will be waiting for you when you return.

*Recommendation: No recommendation needed here. I’ll just share that I love cooking with my husband and getting outside with my kids. We have yet to re-institute Sunday family dinners I experienced as a child- but I’m working on it lol.*

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6. Appreciate the Little Things 

Appreciate the giggles from your baby or the sound of your loved one’s laughter. Take time to literally smell the roses while passing the florist. Linger over your cappucino instead of gulping it down to make it to your morning meeting. Remember, life goes too quickly. When we are mindful of the little things around us, our brain begins to rewire itself. I’m no scientist, but the little bit of research I have read shows that being mindful (aka appreciating the little things in life) can add to a happier, healthier life.

*Recommendation: None needed.*

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7. Take Pictures

No I don’t mean take 1,000 selfies. The pictures I’m referring to don’t need to be expert (or even instagram) quality. But trust me, when you’re older, you are going to want pictures to look back on.

*Recommendation: Take photos of people, places, and things that are meaningful to you. Just remember to enjoy the experience beyond the camera lens. *

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8. Nourish your Body

I wish I could say “eat what makes you happy”, but, if that were true, I’d eat nothing but crusty bread, cheese, and chocolate. Those foods are great in moderation, but don’t forget to feed your body foods that will help it function at 100% (or close to it). For me as a mom, that simply means eating three meals a day, with one or two salads or smoothies thrown in there. Honestly though, take care of your body. Drink water, eat some plants, splurge every once in a while, and do what feels right.

*Recommendation: Nourishing your body isn’t limited to food and drink. This can include self care such as getting your hair or nails done or getting a massage. As mentioned above, do what feels right for your body and listen to what it needs. *

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9. Listen to Music

Did you know that Spotify has it’s own Hygge station?! It’s entitled “Cosy and Relaxed” and is comprised of a Nordic playlist. I’m not saying you have to go that far and listen to it, but try listening to whatever music makes you forget the tasks of daily life and makes you feel relaxed.

*Recommendation: I happen to use Pandora when I’m running around, but there’s nothing like playing an old vinyl record. My husband and I love to listen to my grandmother’s old records (such as Frank Sinatra) while cooking together or sitting on the couch enjoying a warm beverage. *

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AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST……

10. Get Outside! 

It’s a fact that nature has a calming effect on our bodies. Even a few minutes outside listening to the birds or walking on a trail can help you create an atmosphere of hygge.

*Recommendation: Here’s the link to some Scenic NY Parks, many of which my family and I visit regularly: https://www.scenichudson.org/parks *

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As always, thanks for reading. I hope you find you’re comfy, cozy place, wherever that may be.

xo Robin

 

Droughtlander

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Anyone else obsessed with the books and / or STARZ series Outlander? I know I am. After receiving the first book [Outlander] as a gift, and reading ALL 900 PAGES in 3 days…..I’ve been hooked. Since finishing Diana Gabaldon’s 8 books in the series, I felt prepared to watch the screen adaptation. I’m a tough critic and I’ve gotta say it’s pretty awesome, especially Sam Heughan, who is now my biggest celebrity crush (shhhh don’t tell my hubby). Season 3 of the series just ended last month and now we are in a drought aka droughtlander. Anyone else feeling the effects of the drought? How about another show you enjoy which is on hiatus?

Rustic Herb Chicken Thighs Recipe

Happy Sunday Funday! Hope everyone had a good first week back to school or work after the holidays. I know in our home it was a little rough for us to get back to our crazy routine. With that said, all of the holiday leftovers are gone and we are back to looking for simple, yet tasty, family dinner recipes. Here’s one gem I came across as I was cleaning out my desk this morning. It’s a simple recipe that can even be made ahead and popped into the oven right before dinner. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Rustic Herb Chicken Thighs

Serves 4 (as main dish with sides)

Ingredients:

  • 6 organic boneless chicken thighs (rinsed with cold water and patted dry)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Approximately 20 whole peeled garlic cloves (you can use less if you don’t have 20)
  • Herbed butter (recipe to follow)
  • Herbs de provence
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees & foil line a medium sized baking sheet
  2. Using the tablespoon of olive oil (or other oil of your choice) grease the baking sheet (yes, with foil on it lol)
  3. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper
  4. Apply the herbs de provence liberally to the chicken thighs. Be sure to do a little “massaging” to get the dried herbs to stick. If you’d like to make your own herb mixture, I suggest using equal parts of rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano, savory, and if you like it, a pinch of dried lavender.
  5. Once chicken is seasoned, arrange on baking sheet and place the whole peeled garlic cloves around each thigh.
  6. Top each chicken thigh with a tablespoon of herbed butter
  7. Cover tightly with foil and cook chicken at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, then uncover and lower oven temp to 350 degrees, cooking another 10-15 minutes. *Note: cooking times may vary slightly depending on your oven and the thickness of your meat. Always be sure to check doneness before consuming.*

Herbed Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (2 sticks) butter softened
  • 1-4 teaspoons of finely minced fresh herbs (these can be anything you choose- personally I prefer parsley and lemon zest with the above chicken thighs)

Directions:

  1. Leave the sticks of butter out until softened
  2. While butter is softening, mince the herbs and zest 1 lemon
  3.  Put all ingredients in a bowl and mash together until thoroughly combined.
  4. Using parchment paper, roll butter into a log shape and wrap tightly.
  5. Refrigerate overnight (or ideally 24 hours) before using. You can also freeze this in an air tight ziplock bag for up to 6 months.

 

xo Robin

 

 

Adventures in Pea Soup

Pea Soup…..sounds exciting right? WRONG. It isn’t exciting at all. It’s just way too cold up here in the Northeast to do anything except cook or curl up with a good book or watch Netflix with a glass of wine. Since my three girls are running around screaming [which is synonomous with playing in this house] and monopolizing the family room- cooking it is for me.

But what to make??? OH! That’s right- yesterday my mom stoped by and dropped off her leftover Christmas Eve ham. My go-to with leftovers is typically an omelet, casserole, or soup, but I’ve settled with split pea & ham soup as well as ham & cheddar biscuits. After all, there really is a lot of ham left.

Ok back to the soup. I’ve never made pea soup. My mother-in-law is the one who makes an amazing, thick, delicious soup. But it’s ok, “I got this”, I told myself. I looked at a quick recipe from one of my old reliable cookbooks and was off. I began by simmering the ham bone and 4 bay leaves for about 3 hours . The smell was actually quite good, despite it’s fatty salty appearance. At about 2 1/2 hours I cut up 2 onions, 2 large carrots, 3 ribs of celery, and sauteed them in olive oil till softened. Next, I added 2 cloves chopped garlic & 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. I cooked everything until it was a nice golden brown and smelled delicious. At the 3 hour mark I added a 32 oz bag of frozen peas to the broth, along with a couple teaspoons of dried thyme & freshly cracked black pepper. Once the peas had boiled for about 45 min I added the veggie mixture & 3 cubed yellow potatoes. The soup simmered for another hour before I pulled out my trusty immersion blender to try and thicken it up. I blended pretty well, yet the soup still was very thin. Chris, my hubby, suggested letting it sit overnight, as “everything tastes better the next day” anyway.

So, I waited. The next morning I came downstairs, took off the lid of the soup pot….and nope, still too thin. “Shit” I thought to myself. Now any other person would probably think I’m crazy for being disappointed just because the soup was a little on the thin side. It tasted great, smelled great, but to me it was a recipe gone wrong. Fast forward to that afternoon. I bought another bag of peas, simmered them (separately) then added them to the soup and pulled out the ol’ immersion blender again. Better but not perfect. The taste had changed a little. Not necessarily in a bad way, but just more “pea-ish” lol (See I can’t make soup yet I can create new words LIKE A BOSS).

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably bored and wondering why I wasted multiple paragraphs discussing my pea soup. However, I’ve shared this experience because sometimes in life we need to be ok with not being perfect. For me personally, it’s something I’m working on. I KNOW inside that no one can be the “perfect wife” or “perfect mother”, and yet I create crazy high expectations for myself in all areas of life. I guess sometimes we just have to be ok with making crappy, thin pea soup.

Boiling the stock:

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Final Product:IMG_5144.jpg

 

xo Robin