Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve is a time for festivity.  Wear a paper crown (those looks you get at the restaurant?  That's just jealousy!), give your kids noisemakers (and yourself earplugs), toast the New Year in every time zone (Cheers!). 

May 2011 be a banner year for you and your families!   

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I resolve...

The internet is ablaze with New Year's Resolutions.

"Lose 20 pounds in 2011!"

"Kick your bad habits to the curb this year!"

"Find the love of your life before the ball drops!"

For the past several years, my New Year's resolution has been to stop procrastinating.  I decided to continue putting that one off in 2011.  I think, though, that I'll have a kitchen resolution as well.  I haven't made the final resolution yet (I still have a few hours before Dick Clark!), but here are my ideas:
  • Use a new ingredient once a week.
  • Eat dinner in front of the TV no more than once a week.  (30 Rock just beckons to me...)
  • Cook a vegetarian meal once a week.
  • Shop at the farmer's market weekly (when it's open).
  • Eat fish once a week.
As you can see, my resolutions must be manageable, and they must be easy to measure.  Otherwise I will procrastinate (see New Year's Resolution 2008, 2009, and 2010.)

So, what do you think of my ideas?  Have you tried any of them?  What's your resolution for 2011?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Love My Calendar by Lady of the House

3-2-1-Happy New Year! Is it just me, or does a new calendar with fresh pages kind of trump that apple dropping at midnight? I have always relished this integral purchase, and I think the joy of choosing just the right guide to take you into the next year is nothing to mess around with.

I have come across a few in the last little while, and I thought I'd share a few resources.

Paper Source is an obvious spot to check out, and their 2011 Wall Art Calendar is a vibrantly printed option for the laundry room or drab dorm.

I troll Etsy like it's my job, and Bryan Kring's Organic Wreath Letterpress Calendar is simple, lovely and wonderful. I purchased one for a friend, and at the cost of sounding like a complete letterpress nerd, I must tell you the registration is impeccable. You'll be so proud to pin it up somewhere in your home.

Another yummy Etsy find is Dekanimal's large 13x19 Little Flower poster. It's the right amount of folk meets Japan meets quirky enough to please you til next December.

I hope you all have a happy New Year!
Lady of the House

Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Shallots, Bacon, and Port

We had this beef tenderloin for dinner on Christmas Eve.  I'd say more about the recipe, but every time I think about it, I drool a little.  And I don't want to short-circuit my computer, so I'd better just get to the recipe.

Suffice to say, it was GLORIOUS.  Bacon-y, boozy, beefy...Oh, there I go with the drool again.

Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Shallots, Bacon, and Port
Adapted from Bon Appetit via
Serves: 6

3/4 pound shallots, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

3 cups beef broth
3/4 cup tawny Port
1.5 teaspoons tomato paste

1 3-pound  beef tenderloin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 slices bacon, chopped
1.5 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with foil.  Place shallots on the baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast until the shallots are browned and tender, about 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Set shallots aside and reduce heat to 375 degrees.

Combine broth and Port in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and allow mixture to boil until it's reduced by about half, about 30 minutes.  Whisk in tomato paste.  Set aside.  You can make the shallots and the broth mixture a day ahead.  Just refrigerate separately until you're ready to use them.

Meanwhile, pat the beef dry.  Season with thyme, salt, and pepper.  Heat a very large skillet over medium-high heat, and saute bacon until until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the bacon to paper towels.  Add beef to the same skillet and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.  Place the skillet in the oven, and roast the beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees for medium rare, about 35-40 minutes.  (If the bacon grease gets too smoky in the oven, transfer the beef to a separate baking dish.)  When the beef is finished cooking, transfer it to a platter, and tent with foil.

Pour fat from the skillet, and place the skillet over high heat.  Add broth mixture and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Reduce heat to medium-low and allow the sauce to simmer until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.  Whisk in butter.  Stir in bacon and, if desired, shallots.  If you have onion-averse in your group (like I do), feel free to serve the shallots on the side.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice beef and serve with sauce on the side.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Are you a parent?  If so, your kiddos are probably on school break this week.  I don't have any rugrats running around my house, but if I did, I'd be worried about keeping them entertained all day long.  There's a lot of opportunity for mischief during school break.  (Don't ask me how I know this.)

One way to keep everybody busy is to get the whole gang in the kitchen for meal prep, and this breakfast is the perfect opportunity.  Eggs-in-a-hole looks so doggone funny, everybody will love helping out.  Let the kids use a cookie cutter to cut the hole in the bread or dump the egg into the hole.  And if it doesn't look perfect, who cares?  The kids will be too busy chowing down their delicious creations to notice.

How do you get your family into the kitchen? 
Serves: 2*

2 pieces of your favorite bread
2 eggs
1.5 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper

Since this cooks so quickly, be sure to have all of your ingredients ready to go before getting started.  Using a cookie cutter or a sharp knife, cut a 2.5" hole into each slice of bread.  Crack eggs into separate small bowls or cups.

In a 12" non-stick skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the large pieces of bread to the center of the skillet and the "holes" to the outside edges of the skillet.  Immediately pour one egg into each hole.  Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper, and allow them to cook for about a minute and a half.  Carefully flip the eggs-in-a-hole, and allow them to cook on the second side until they reach the desired consistency, about 70 seconds if you like your eggs a little runny.  Serve the eggs-in-a-hole with the egg hiding under the "hole" part of the bread.  

*If you're making more than two servings, keep the first eggs-in-a-hole warm in a low oven.  Also, wipe out the skillet with a paper towel between each batch.    

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your families a Christmas filled with joy!
-Erin & The Lady of the House

Joy to the world, the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods,
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessing flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Final Christmas Warning

This is what happens when you force your husband to decorate Christmas cookies with you:

Consider yourself warned. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Science Geek Hits the Kitchen

In case you were wondering, apples are my favorite fruit.  In line with my standard weirdness, though, I only like to eat them when they're sliced.  I think it stems from some traumatic event during my (many) years in braces.

Anyway, the issue with sliced apples is that they turn brown.  Yick.  I am guilty of eating with my eyes first...I don't like brown fruit.

Recently, I did a little test.  I've heard that giving your apples a quick rinse in lemon water slows the discoloration.  So, I gave it a whirl.  Here's how it went, using the scientific method, obviously.

Ask a question: How do I keep my fruit from turning brown?
Construct a hypothesis: If I put sliced apples and pears into lemon water, it will slow down the discoloration.
Test with an experiment:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine juice of one lemon with 2 cups of water. 
  2. Slice apples and pears, and place in lemon water.
  3. Dry off fruit.
  4. Place fruit on platter.
  5. Bring platter to bookclub.
  6. Continue to monitor browning while discussing "In the Neighborhood." 
Analyze results: The pears still turned brown pretty quickly, but the apples stayed white for quite a while.  
Draw a conclusion: Soaking fruit in lemon water slows down browning of apples, but not really pears.  But even once it's brown, the fruit is still delicious.   

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You Crack Me Up by Lady of the House

The Holidays are peppered with tradition, but I say there's always room for one more. This year, set the table with Christmas Crackers. What? You don't know about Christmas crackers?

These festive little tubes are basically a party all wrapped up. Inside there's always a paper crown, maybe a little toy or a joke, and oh, look at that, instant smiles on everyone's faces as the tension leaves the room.

Now growing up, we had to have my auntie mail over a box of crackers from the UK, but lately I've noticed them around, and I'm delighted to see the trend is picking up. You'll find them at Williams Sonoma, Party City, and of course,

When you decide it's time to crack the crackers, make sure the little bit of cardboard (the thing that ignites the crack) is pinched tightly with the paper. And pull it with whoever is seated beside you. The person that gets the bigger piece of the torn cracker wins the contents. Play nice, though. Just one crown for you, Mister.

Here's to a holly jolly one.
Lady of the House

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Homemade Thin Mints

Last year, I made these cookies for the holidays and brought them to the office to share with my co-workers.  I think I called them "Mint Crispies" or something lame like that.  Well, my pal, Craig, couldn't remember the name of the cookies, so he started referring to them as "Minty Mindies."  Sounds like the name of a gal who earns her living in an unsavory way, but no matter, the name stuck.

And, I'll admit, when you read the ingredients, it sounds like this recipe is going to taste as weird as it's name, but trust me on this one. It is AWESOME.  These easy little cookies taste just like Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies.  Delish.

Homemade Thin Mints (a.k.a. Minty Mindies)
Makes: 35-48 cookies

1 pound dark mint chocolate candy making wafers (I buy these at a bakery and candy supply store.)
Ritz crackers (30-50, depending on how chocolate-y you make your Minty Mindies.)
Crushed peppermint candies

Place the chocolate in a medium-sized bowl.  Microwave on high power for 2-4 minutes, stopping to stir every 30 seconds, until the chocolate is melted.  (Alternatively, use a double-boiler to melt the chocolate.)

Using two forks, dip Ritz crackers in the chocolate and stir them around to coat.  I coat mine really thickly, because I love chocolate, but you can allow more of the chocolate to drip off if you prefer.  Place the crackers on parchment paper.  While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies to add a little flair.

Allow the chocolate to dry.  Serve or store your Minty Mindies in an airtight container.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Goat Cheese Spread with Cranberries and Basil

Christmas is on Saturday, and I am NOT ready.  I still have presents to buy, cards to send, gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, packages to mail...Oh, boy.

Is anyone else looking for ways to make your life a little bit easier this Christmas?  Well, today I've got a recipe for a fast, easy, and delicious appetizer that's perfect for your holiday fete.  Christmas bonus: it's red and green.  It won't fold the laundry, but it will free up a few minutes so you can ball the socks.  Or watch Elf.

Goat Cheese Spread
From Therese (of dinner co-op fame)
Serves: 8-10

1/2 cup chopped candied pecans
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (not dried!)
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
8-10 ounces goat cheese
Table water crackers*, for serving

Mix together the pecans, basil, and cranberries and place them on a long piece of waxed or parchment paper.  Roll the goat cheese in the mixture, pressing hard so it adheres.  Also, push the goat cheese to make it into a longer log, so you'll have more surface area for the topping to stick to.

Once most of the mixture is stuck to the goat cheese, roll it up tightly in the waxed paper.  Place it in the refrigerator overnight to help the topping adhere.

Take the goat cheese spread out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving so it's easier to spread.  Serve with table water crackers.

*We had this appetizer at my bookclub with both Carr's Table Water Crackers and Carr's Whole Wheat Crackers.  It was a unanimous decision that the table water crackers were better.
Double bonus: If you have leftover goat cheese spread, you're in luck!  Slice it into discs, and serve it over mixed baby greens drizzled with good balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  You'll have yourself a posh little lunch.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good info

Today I have a few totally random updates.  We have some good recipes coming next week, though, so come back for more hot dinner on Monday!

Recipe Index: We created a new tab on our homepage that lists all the recipes we've posted to Hot Dinner Happy Home.  I know, you can't wait to go and track down the recipe for Cashew Chicken.  

Meet the Happy Homemakers: Have you been wanting to find out more about us?  Well, you're in luck!  Check out this tab on the homepage for all kinds of interesting information.  
And in case you don't get enough of us here at Hot Dinner Happy Home, I thought I'd let you know where else on the interweb you can track down me and the Lady of the House.  

Facebook: Become our fan on Facebook!  You can get updates from us on your News Feed.  I'm sure that will make your day.

Twitter: Ok, I just joined Twitter, and it's a little addictive.  Come follow me.  (I'm currently picturing a Hot Dinner conga line, and I like it.)  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chicken Jaipur

Recently, I heard Nigella Lawson refer to yellow raisins as "sultanas."

It sounded.  So.  Fancy.

Inspired, I decided to make something that sounded equally fancy and exotic, and, preferably, included sultanas.  Conveniently located on the top of my ever-growing stack of meals to try, I found a recipe ripped from a recent Penzeys Spices catalogue called "Chicken Jaipur."  Don't have a clue to pronounce it, but it sure looks fancy and exotic.  Bonus, the recipe recommends sprinkling sultanas on top.  PERFECTION!

P.S. Don't know why I am italicizing sultanas, but it seems like the right thing to do.

Chicken Jaipur
Adapted from Penzeys Spices
Serves: 8

3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4-1/3 cup curry powder
3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced
1/8-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup half and half

For serving (pick your favorite toppings!):
Cooked white or jasmine rice
Crumbled bacon
Chopped cashews or peanuts
Green onions, very thinly sliced
Mango chutney

Place the chicken breasts in a medium pan and cover with chicken stock.  Bring the liquid to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.

Heat the butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened and gold, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the garlic, curry powder, crystallized ginger, cayenne, pepper, and cloves.  Stir until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the coconut milk and reserved 1 1/2 cups chicken stock.  Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Add the chicken to the curry, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes longer.  Stir in the lime juice and the half and half.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve the chicken jaipur over cooked white rice.  Top with your favorite condiments.  (The husband goes for coconut and sultanas.  I like coconut, cashews, green onions, and sultanas.  Lots of sultanas.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Showing Up by Lady of the House

Your social calendar is brimming, and yes, time is running short, but don't, I repeat, don't skimp on your hostess gifts. It's one thing being the host, now show how gracious you can be as a guest.

I'm not reinventing the wheel here, but I will say, my suggested gifts border on luxury and oh-you-shouldn't-have-yum!

1) Send a bouquet of flowers or an arrangement BEFORE the big event. What a fun little treat, and oh how useful for your already haggard friend.

2) Skip ordinary and lavish Ms. Dinner Party with decadent soaps from Claus Porto. She'll either pop them in the guest bath, or better yet, sneak them away to her quarters for that much needed soak once the guests have left and the dishes are done.

3) Got a light? Show up with the ambiance and the sparkle with a bundle of tapered candles. Seriously, it elevates even macaroni and cheese. Hostess with the Mostest will L-O-V-E you for it.

4) And if it's a quickie run to Trader Joes for a bottle of vino, at least dress it up with a fun, and might I add, conveniently re-giftable tote. Since we're not plucking the '94 Screaming Eagle from the cellar, we may as well take old Bogle to dinner in a fancy outfit.

Be fabulous, as usual.

xoxo Lady of the House

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dinner Co-op

Am I the only one running around like a chicken with her head cut off this time of year?  Between buying presents, trimming the tree, singing with Bing, baking cookies, and signing cards, there's barely time for the little working, for example.  Needless to say, cooking hot dinner has dropped a few pegs on my priority list.

On days like this I'm particularly grateful for dinner co-op.  Now I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Dinner co-op?  What in the world is that?"  Well, I'll let you in on this genius idea.

My friend and co-worker, Therese, and I both enjoy cooking.  For years we've swapped recipes and tips.  Then one day, we decided to start a dinner co-op.  It's a pretty simple concept: Therese and I both cook twice as much as we need one night a week, and then swap the leftovers.  Typically, we both cook the double dinner on Mondays and bring the leftovers to work on Tuesday.  So, the husband and I have a new-to-us meal on Tuesday night, and I don't have to cook a thing!

In addition to saving time, dinner co-op is fun because it gives you the opportunity to try new dishes.  Therese has some delish recipes that my belly has benefitted from.  Chicken curry, Indian lasagna, mini burgers, mac n' cheese...  I'm getting hungry just thinking about some of these meals!

So, if you have a friend who enjoys cooking, consider proposing a dinner co-op.  Once a week, month, quarter, or year, it's a fun project that will save you money and time.  Oh, and if you do start a co-op, I'd love to hear about it!  Comment, send an e-mail, or visit our Facebook page to let me know.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Butternut Squash Macaroni & Cheese

I don't have any kids, but if I did, I'd make them Squasharoni.  Here's why:

  1. It uses itty-bitty pasta.  I watched my friend, Mo, feed her baby the other day, and that baby loooooved to eat itty-bitty pasta.  The noodles were perfectly sized for her tiny fingers.  She also liked to smoosh her dinner all over herself.  That was funny.  
  2. Top secret: it's healthy!  While this looks like regular old mac and cheese, complete with Kraft-esque orange color, it's full of vegetables.  So, you can trick your kid into eating something filled with vitamins and fiber.  Sneaky, huh?
  3. It's called Squasharoni.  'Nuf said.
Butternut Squash Macaroni & Cheese ("Squasharoni")
Recipe adapted from Great Food Fast by Everyday Food and re-named by me.  (As if a regular cookbook author would actually call something "Squasharoni.") 
Serves: 6

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided 
1 pound small pasta shells
1 12-ounce package frozen winter squash puree, thawed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Crusty baguette, cut into 1/4" cubes, to make 2 cups bread cubes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pan, and cook until the onions are soft, about 15 minutes.  Uncover and raise the heat to medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned, about 20 minutes longer.  Stir in 2 teaspoons of the rosemary.  

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water for 2 minutes less than the package instructions suggest.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  

Stir the squash and the reserved pasta water into the onions.  Simmer for 2 minutes.  Stir the squash mixture and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese into the pasta.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Toss together the bread cubes with the remaining 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle the bread cubes over the top of the pasta.  Pop the dish in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.   

Friday, December 10, 2010


Today's post is a question for you, good people of the interweb.

What are your favorite holiday food traditions?  Do you decorate homemade cut-out cookies?  Swoon over Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes?  Mainline candy canes?  I'm curious.

Post a comment or drop us a line on our Facebook page.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sole Meuniere

Sole Meuniere.  I had always wanted to attempt this dish, with all of it's fancy-sounding Frenchiness.  And when my mom came to visit the husband and me, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Heads-up: this recipe is a little bit fussy, but I did it, and you can do it!  Next time you're looking to challenge yourself or impress a friend, give this one a whirl.

Sole Meuniere
Serves: 4

8 sole fillets (3-4 ounces each)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter

Browned Butter Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Get a heatproof platter ready to serve your fish.

Pat fish dry with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper, then let the fish stand for about 5 minutes until it glistens with moisture.  Place flour in a shallow dish.  Dredge the fish in the flour, shake off excess, and set the fish on a clean plate.

In your very largest nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high.  Add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl the pan to combine it with the oil.  When the foaming subsides, add 4 sole fillets.  Cook the fish until it's golden on the bottom, about 2-3 minutes.  (These fillets are skinny guys so they cook quickly.)  Flip carefully (using two spatulas so the sole doesn't break), and cook until the fish is opaque in the center and golden, about 1-2 minutes.  Transfer the sole to your heatproof platter and place it in the oven to stay warm.  Pour the drippings out of the skillet and wipe it clean with paper towels.

Repeat the process above with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon butter, and fish.  Once all of your fish is cooked and warming in the oven, you're ready to make the browned butter sauce.

Wipe out your skillet with paper towels and return it to medium-high heat.  Add 4 tablespoons butter to the skillet and cook until it's golden brown and has a nutty aroma, swirling the pan so it doesn't burn, about 1-2 minutes.  Remove pan from the heat, and stir in parsley and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon sauce over the fish and serve with lemon wedges.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hey Santa! by Lady of the House

A few years ago, my family and I took a detour to Christmas fun, and opted for a good old-fashioned-name-out-of-the-hat gift exchange. I'm happy to report that we landed at the same cheerful destination, but perhaps with a bit more distinction, a bit more flair. Whatever you call it--Secret Santa, Pollyannna, Kris Kringle--I think there's a lot to be said for focusing on a recipient and spending your hard-earned money in one place rather than frittering it on every last relative at the dollar store. If you take it seriously (which you absolutely should) it prompts a careful study of the recipient, and you may find yourself really calculating things, allowing yourself the time to be thoughtful.

This year, I took to the interweb (Erin's hilarious word--not mine) and decided to see what was out there. Could we elevate things? Could we transcend the spit-balled, handwritten, horribly torn post-it note with "MOM" scrawled in ball point? I mean, as much as I like getting mail that looks like a fraction of a ransom letter, I thought, there must be someTHING some nerd developed that makes this funny situation digital and perhaps anonymous. And enter, with pride I'll add, Don't laugh. It's the most ridiculous name, but quite the clever gifting tool, and from personal experience, I think you and your family will love it. You can make sure couples don't get paired up, and you can even make a wish list so your uncle doesn't buy you Spanx. um...

Happy family gifting!

Lady of the House

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce

Recently, Jill and I made these Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce.  Everything seemed to be going well, until we attempted to roll up the corn tortillas.

I should pause here for a second and let you know that I've never cooked with corn tortillas.  Flour, yep, but never corn.  I like tortillas.  I like corn.  So, I figured I was in business.  But I had no idea that when you roll up corn tortillas, they explode open, spilling their guts everywhere.

Jill and I exchanged quizzical looks the first time it happened.  We figured it was a fluke, and kept rolling.  Well, it wasn't a fluke.  All of our enchiladas burst open like little dinner pinatas.  But we weren't deterred; we simply loaded them into the pan, poured the sauce over top, and covered our mistake with lots and lots of shredded cheese.  Honestly, I haven't found a cooking mistake that can't be corrected with cheese.

The next day, I explained the corn tortilla situation to my friend, Therese.  "You didn't warm them up first?" she asked.


So, apparently you're supposed to warm corn tortillas before rolling them.  I've included this important step in the recipe below.  If you give this a try, let me know how your tortilla rolling works out!

Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce
Adapted from Great Food Fast by Everyday Food
Serves: 6

1 roast or rotisserie chicken, skin removed, meat shredded
6 scallions, white and light green parts only, very thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 1/2 cups water
15 corn tortillas (6-inch)
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Salsa, for serving (I like to use peach mango salsa)
Sour cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a bowl, combine chicken and scallions.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a blender, combine pumpkin, garlic, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, chili powder, water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Hold the lid on tightly so it doesn't explode all over your kitchen, and puree the sauce until smooth.  Pour 1 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.  

Wrap half the tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave on high for 30 seconds to make them pliable.  Evenly divide half the chicken mixture between the warmed tortillas.  Roll them up tightly, and place seam side down in the baking dish.  Repeat with the rest of the tortillas and chicken mixture.

Pour the remaining pumpkin sauce on top.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.  Let the enchiladas cool for 5 minutes before serving with salsa and sour cream.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas for the Cook

For many years I've suspected that I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to cooking.  But it was confirmed the year I received a chef's knife for Christmas...and was ecstatic.  Forget asking Santa for cool-kid things like jeggings or a record player (yeah, I think they're in again.)  Maybe someday I'll be a hipster.    

Until then, here are a few gift ideas for your favorite foodie, tried and tested in my (nerdy) kitchen:

For the Hostess with the Mostess:
Fashion Apron.  Yes, they exist.  And there's something so chic about an apron over a cocktail dress.  Check out Anthropologie, or pop over to your local consignment shop for some priceless vintage gems.  My sister gave me the apron pictured here last Christmas, and I loooooove it.  It makes cooking feel so glamorous.

For the Budding Chef:
The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  This is my cooking Bible.  It tells you how to make everything, and how to make it well.  The instructions are clear and easy to follow, perfect for someone who's still gaining kitchen confidence.

For the Carnivore:
Digital Thermometer.  I was terrified to cook meat until I started using a digital thermometer.  Based on a Cook's Illustrated recommendation, I use the CDN ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer.  Pick one up at for $14.00  

For the Person You Want to Impress:
5 1/2-Quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  This sucker ain't cheap, but it will last you for infinity.  It's perfect for making, well, everything.  Plus it's beautiful.  (There I go, showing my culinary dorkiness.)  I got one from the husband for my birthday.  It's red.  I love it so much, I'm showing you a picture of how happy I was to receive it.  Again with the dorkiness.  Sigh.

For the Person Who Has It All...Or Who Makes a Mess Blending Soups:
KitchenAid Immersion Blender.  In addition to pureeing soups, use this handy tool to chop or blend stuff.  According to the little pamphlet that came with the blender, you can make guacamole, soup, salad dressing, baby food, dip, mousse, gravy, frosting, pancakes, and smothies.  Phew!  That's a lot of things.  I also got this for my b-day (thanks, Kelly and Jill!!), because I do make a mess blending soups.  A big mess.

This list should get you started.  Want more gift ideas?  Just let me know by leaving a comment, sending an e-mail, or posting a note on our Facebook page.  If you guys want, there's plenty more where these came from!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Apple-Herb Vinaigrette

The husband and I decided that we watch too much TV.  Shel Silverstein describes our situation almost exactly in his wise poem, "Jimmy Jet and His TV Set:"

I'll tell you the story of Jimmy Jet--
And you know what I tell you is true.
He loved to watch his TV set
Almost as much as you. 

He watched all day, he watched all night. 
Till he grew pale and lean,
From "The Early Show" to "The Late Late Show"
And all the shows between.

He watched till his eyes were frozen wide,
And his bottom grew into his chair.
And his chin turned into a tuning dial,
And antennae grew out of his hair.

And his brains turned into TV tubes, 
And his face to a TV screen.
And two knobs saying "VERT." and "HORIZ." 
Grew where his ears had been.

And he grew a plug that looked like a tail
So we plugged in little Jim. 
And now instead of him watching TV
We all sit around and watch him. 

In attempts to amend our TV-watching ways, we did the most logical thing.  We bought a Wii.

Needless to say, I've been playing Mario Kart instead of writing clever blog entries.  So here's a salad dressing recipe...

Apple-Herb Vinaigrette
Adapted From The Best Light Recipe by Cook's Illustrated

2 cups apple juice*
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning (the recipe called for sage, but I was fresh out)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Shake together all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Serve with your favorite salad greens, thinly sliced apples, dried cranberries, and toasted pecans.

*If you use the full amount of apple juice, the dressing will be sweet and not too tangy.  If you want more pizzazz, reduce the apple juice to 1 cup.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Apple Pie

I can't remember if I've mentioned it before, but I'm terrified of making pie.  TERRIFIED.  Until this year, I've made pie three times, and each time it's gone poorly.

Pie #1: Pecan Pie
About a month into our marriage, the husband started a new phase in his career.  In order to celebrate this milestone, I decided to bake him a pie.  Pecan pie.  It took me two days to bake the stupid thing.  I had to buy the ingredients.  Make the dough.  Chill the dough.  Roll the dough.  Freeze the dough.  Par bake the crust.  Fill the crust.  Bake the pie.  Let it cool.  When I fiiiiinally served the pecan pie to the husband, he didn't want any.  He didn't like pecan pie, he told me.  (Side note: if your significant other ever spends two days baking you a pie, EAT IT.  If it's your least favorite food in the world, eat it anyway.  If you're deathly allergic to the pie, at least offer to eat it.)  After all that effort, I couldn't let the pie go to waste.  It took me a few days, but I ate the whole doggone thing.  Although it tasted pretty delicious, my feelings were hurt.  I vowed never to make pie again.

Pie #2: Pumpkin Praline Pie
For Thanksgiving 2007 I decided to make my Aunt Joanne's famous pumpkin praline pie.  After the pecan pie situation, I wimped out and bought the crust.  I was nervous that the top would crack and look like the Grand Canyon, but it wasn't too bad!  And it tasted divine.  You're wondering what went wrong with pie #2?  Well, the husband wouldn't eat it.  Apparently, he doesn't like pumpkin pie either.  As you might have guessed, that went over poorly.  I was finished with pie for good.

Pie #3: Apple Pie
By the time Thanksgiving 2008 rolled around, I should have learned my lesson.  And I did...sort of.  This time, I asked the husband what kind of pie he wanted before I started baking.  Apple pie, he said, and he even had a recipe from a friend!  Phew.  No more fights related to his taste buds.  So, I made the specific pie requested by the husband.  The recipe seemed a little suspect, but this was what the man wanted, so I kept on.  Well, I should have listened to my gut on this one.  The pie tasted terrible.  Absolutely awful.  The husband tried the pie, declared it inedible, and took all the blame for the bad recipe.  He's a very smart man.  I declared that I was never making another pie.  Ever.  Seriously this time.

Being the eternal optimist, I decided to give it one more shot this Thanksgiving.  And I am proud to report, in the year of our Lord 2010, on the 25th day of November, I conquered pie.  It took both my mom's and my dad's help, but I DID IT!!!  I baked a fan-freakin'-tastic apple pie.  Ok, I might be overstating it slightly, but it was tasty.

The moral of the story?  Don't let fear keep you out of the kitchen.  It's not always easy, but it's worth it.

Apple Pie      
This recipe is from  It's called "Apple Pie by Grandma Ople."  Cute, huh?
Serves: 8

1 recipe for a 9" double crust pie (on my friend, Jen's, recommendation, I used this recipe from Martha Stewart.)
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white, lightly beaten
8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced very thin

Adjust an oven rack so it's in the lower third of the oven.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place it on the rack.  Preheat oven (with the baking sheet in it) to 425 degrees.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir flour into butter to form a paste.  Cook for 1-2 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.  Add water, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and stir in vanilla.

Set aside about a quarter of the butter-sugar mixture and stir the rest into the apples.

Meanwhile, place the bottom crust in a 9" pie plate.  Brush the bottom crust with egg white to help prevent it from getting soggy.  Fill crust with the apples.  Cover with the top crust.  Crimp the edges and cut decorative slits into the top crust.  Use a pastry brush to brush the reserved butter-sugar mixture over the top crust.  (If the mixture has cooled and thickened, just warm it up in the microwave until it's liquid again.)  

Place pie on the preheated baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 35-45 minutes, until the apples are soft.  Let the pie cool before serving so the filling has a chance to firm up.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Guest Post: The Perfect Holiday Photo

Today we have a guest post!  Fabulous photog Emily Snyder is gracious enough to join us here at Hot Dinner Happy Home to provide some photography tips as we delve into the frightening season of holiday cards.  If, like me, you're quaking in your boots at the daunting prospect of the perfect family photo, read on.  And after that, pop on over to Emily's website to learn more about Emily Snyder Photography.
It's December 1st, and you don’t have your Christmas cards made out yet. When you peruse your photo library, you realize that you've gone years without appropriate photo documentation of your family get-togethers. There is no evidence of your jollity, your perfect vacation, your third child!   

Well, it's time to pull out your camera.  You will have no longer have a need for those “generic” holiday cards.  Forget Rudolph with his big red nose staring at you like a deer in the holiday headlights.  And “HO HO HO MERRY XMAS” is getting kind of old.  The twelve days of Christmas and the eight days of Hanukkah with all of their pragmatic, bullet-pointed, family highlights...Are you tired of this yet?  Because I am! 

So, let’s make a card together that doesn’t result in a quick flick into the bottom of your recycling bin.  It does not matter what type of camera you own; you don't need the top-of-the-line camera to take the best photos. These tips will allow you to capture the perfect family photo and create a precious holiday photo card.  

Location: My first suggestion would be to take photos outside away from all of your day-to-day clutter.  No one wants to see the fifteen-year-old Santa standing on your mantle collecting dust.  If you can’t shoot outside, choose a neutral location indoors that will not take the attention from your beautiful family. Try to use existing lighting; a generic flash can ruin a perfectly good photo. There are so many places around you that would be perfect- a nearby park, a long, quiet road, the front porch, or an old barn.

Time: If you are shooting outside, don’t shoot in the mid-day. Often times you will create large shadows and squinty eyes.  Instead, choose a time where the sun is setting or rising (either behind you or in front of you).  This will give a nice, natural glow on the face.

Wardrobe: NO MATCHING SWEATERS! Choose outfits with good texture (i.e. jean jackets, cable-knit sweaters) that are in the same color scheme, but not the same color.  If your husband is wearing red, don’t wear PINK.  And if you're in doubt, print your photo in black and white.

Printing/Processing: Avoid your local pharmacy photo printer and take your fabulous new photo to Delphine Press  or Minted.  These two companies provide fast service, excellent print quality, and a plethora of templates that will fit perfectly with your family’s style.