Friday, September 30, 2011

Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese and Dried Cranberries

The husband introduced me to a phone app called Words with Friends. It's dangerously addictive. One minute you're having a conversation with your spouse, and the next, you're trying to land a "j" on a triple letter score, muttering "mmmhhhmmm" to whatever he's saying.

Although you can't buy it on iTunes, I think cooking with friends is just as good. There are a gaggle of reasons why it's an excellent past-time, dinner-time, party-time...

  1. It's fun. Another couple joining you for a double date, a few glasses of good wine, someone attempting to use an immersion blender for the first time. It's either a recipe for disaster or hilarity, and it always seems to be the latter. 
  2. It's less work than cooking alone. Hate peeling carrots? Assign that job to a friend while you focus on chopping onions. Or you can be the supervisor and just watch everyone else cook while you sip a cocktail. Someone has to be the coordinator, right?
  3. It takes the pressure off. Entertaining can be intimidating, especially if you're not terribly comfortable in the kitchen. Cooking with your dinner guests is the best way to remedy that. If your meal doesn't turn out according to plan, it's on everyone's shoulders. And you know my rule; if dinner doesn't work, you can all go to McDonald's. 
This salad is one of my favorite things to make when I cook with my friend, Kelly. It's her favorite. Also, it's easy. So we can focus on gabbing and drinking. (See #1 above.)

Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese and Dried Cranberries
A.k.a. Kelly's Favorite Salad
Serves: 4

8 cups mixed greens
2 apples, very thinly sliced (If you're not as obsessed with apples as I am, you could use just one.)
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans
High-quality balsamic vinegar
High-quality extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a large bowl (or on individual plates) combine greens, apples, goat cheese, cranberries, and pecans. Drizzle with vinegar and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

And the Winner is...


Thanks a million for being a faithful reader. We can't wait to post you your very own Hot Dinner Happy Home apron, so get in touch with us!

{ Lady of the House }

Monday, September 26, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

Did you know that autumn is my favorite season? I love the crisp air, cozy sweaters, and hearty foods. I start lighting candles that smell too strong and give the husband headaches. I feel all nest-y and start cleaning my house. It's the best. Well, except for the headaches. Poor husband.

Winter squash is one of the many other reasons I love fall. I think I've mentioned my sweet tooth a time or two on HDHH. Squash is a vegetable (read: healthy, chock full of vitamins), but it tastes like candy (read: sweet, delicious, wonderful.) I swoon just thinking about it.

To kick off the first day of fall last week, I made Roast Butternut Squash Soup with Jill and Kelly. With it's creamy texture and rich orange hue, it was the perfect way to start the season. This soup is more savory than other butternut squash soups I've had in the past, and it's flavor made me think about an upcoming fall favorite, Thanksgiving.

Make plenty extra because it reheats well for lunch the next day. Everyone in your lunch room will be jealous.

Three cheers for fall!

Butternut Squash Soup
Serves: 6-8

1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1/4 cup white wine
2 bay leaves
2-3 cups vegetable broth

The first step is roasting the squash. I'll give you a few methods, and you can pick your favorite depending on how much time you have and how strong your aversion to slicing raw butternut squash is. These techniques are from the trustworthy tome Joy of Cooking.

Roasting Whole Butternut Squash
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pierce the squash with a knife in 4-5 places so it doesn't explode. Place squash in a baking dish (so it doesn't ooze it's sugary juices all over your oven and create a sticky, stinky mess) and bake until the flesh is tender when pierced with a knife. Since butternut squash is large, it will take about an hour and a half to cook. Once it's cooked, cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds and strings.

Roasting Pieces of Butternut Squash
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Add 1/4" water to the pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake until flesh is tender when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes - 1 hour.

While your squash is roasting, add olive oil to a large soup pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Saute until vegetables are tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Pour in wine and stir, scraping the bottom to deglaze the pot.

Scoop squash out of the skin and add to the soup pot. Add vegetable broth just to cover and stir in bay leaves. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove bay leaves and puree the soup using an immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender,  puree the soup in batches in your blender. (Then add an immersion blender to your Christmas list!) If the soup is too thick, slowly add more broth until it reaches the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Plan-Ahead Tip: Roasting butternut squash takes a long time, but it's totally hands-off. Roast squash the day ahead or while your kiddos are taking a nap, and dinner will be ready in moments!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos

After a summer hiatus, this week marked the return of dinner co-op with my friend and co-worker, Therese. She made her world-famous chili, and I made Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos. I've mentioned dinner co-op before, but I'll explain it again for those of you who may be new to HDHH.

Therese and I both have households of two. On Mondays, we cook dinner for four people, and we bring the leftovers to work on Tuesdays and switch them. I take home Therese's leftovers and she takes home mine. That means on Tuesday nights, both of our families get new-to-us dinners, but we only have to cook once! It's really a genius situation.

When I was whipping up these make-ahead-friendly Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos, I noticed something: They are not photogenic. In fact, when the husband came nosing around the kitchen to see what the delicious smells were all about, I shielded my culinary endeavors from him and hollered, "Don't look! Don't look!" See, the husband has been known to turn up his nose at foods that look funny, even if it's just during the prep stages.

If I wasn't going to let the husband watch me cook the burritos, I certainly wasn't going to take pictures for this post. I figured I'd just take photos when they were on the plate and finished. I had high hopes of a salsa and sour cream garnish that would knock your socks off. Maybe even a sprinkling of cilantro.

Yeah, so I forgot about all that. I was too hungry, and we just dug in. But trust me that these burritos are delicious. Even the husband said, "These are really good. Especially for vegetarian food!"

Now I know you're all going to make them tonight.

Oh, and because I couldn't stand to leave you without one of my photographic masterpieces (I sense a note of sarcasm...), here's a picture of the leftover burritos in my fridge. They're gonna be good again tonight!

P.S. Don't forget to enter our contest for a fantastic prize. Read more about it on Monday's post. Anyone who comments on a post from this week will be entered to win a Hot Dinner Happy Home apron in celebration of our first birthday! Comment away, folks!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos
Adapted from An Occasion to Gather
Serves: 4-6

1 very large (or two small) sweet potato(s), peeled and cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 ounces diced green chiles (1/2 of a small can)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
8 flour tortillas
Salsa and sour cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sweet potato in a saucepan with enough water to cover and a hearty pinch of salt. Bring water to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow sweet potatoes to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until   they're easily pierced with a fork. Drain sweet potatoes and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and chiles and saute, stirring often, for 7 minutes. Stir in cumin and coriander and cook for another minute, until the spices are fragrant. Remove onion mixture from heat and set aside.

Combine sweet potatoes and black beans and mash them together with a potato masher or whatever mashing implement you prefer. (I like my burrito filling to have some texture, so I didn't mash it too much. Just use your best judgement.) Stir in onion mixture, cheese, and cilantro.

Evenly divide the filling between the tortillas. Roll burritos up tightly and place seam-side-down in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes if you'd like to crisp up the tops a little bit.

Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fit to be Tied by Lady of the House

Today I hit my local craft store with one thing in mind, or I should say two: my niece and nephew. They're approaching the wonderful age of scribbling and doodling, and I've had this idea for a while that I ought to make them each their own little crayon roll-up. I found adorable fabric and headed straight for the cutting table.

With the help of my dear Mum, a true artistic genius, we whipped up this little kit in no time. I used basic quilting fabric, cut to an 18 by 18 inch square. Then, I lined it with a piece of felt cut to 10 inches by 16.5 inches.
We folded the edges of the quilting fabric, pinned it, then stitched it.

Allowing ample room for the spiral sketch pad and crayons, we stitched pouches so everything tucks neatly into its proper place. (At the outset, a placemat, and a bit of pinning with the crayons and notebook of your choosing give a good gauge of where you're headed measurement wise.) And perhaps it's helpful to note that we allotted 1 and 3/16 inches per crayon, and 5.5 inches for the notebook.

The crayons I purchased are triangular in shape and recommended for little ones. Truthfully, I think those crayons are really suited to their parents who don't need the added burden of chasing rolling crayons in addition to keeping the blasted things out of baby's mouth!

I'm no seamstress, but I'm happy to report this was a simple project with zero drama. And hey, I've got a jump on my Christmas presents!!

{ Lady of the House }
please send along any questions:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Hot Dinner Happy Home!

So...does anything seem different today?

No, I'm not wearing a new perfume. I didn't cut bangs or get a perm. And my lipstick, well, it's Burt's Bees pomegranate lip balm, so nothing out of the norm there, either.

Oh, Hot Dinner Happy Home looks different, you say? Well, lovely of you to notice!

In celebration of Hot Dinner Happy Home's first birthday, the Lady of the House and I did a bit of redecorating. New logo, fresh background, the whole kit and caboodle.

Being technologically un-advanced, we weren't able to accomplish all the design tweaks we wanted by today, so you may notice a few additional updates over the next few weeks. Speaking of technologically un-advanced, while I was making changes to the site, a few old posts decided to move to the top of the list. Sorry about that, but I'm afraid I have no idea how to fix it.

Anyway, we would LOVE to hear your feedback about our new design. Do you like it? Hate it? Any opinions or suggestions are appreciated, so comment away.

But back to the birthday. So much has happened over the past year. We've baked, visited the farmers' market, celebrated holidays, used the BBQ, welcomed new family members, eaten tons of corn, organized our photos, conquered the slow cooker, brined, cleaned without noxious fumes, cooked for one, roasted, and    sent our love through gifts. Ahh, the memories.

We have had a wonderful year, and we feel so blessed to have shared it with you, our fabulous readers. We are so grateful to you for joining us on our adventures as we strive to turn our homes into havens. We hope our little corner of the interweb has been a bit of a haven for you...from work, screaming kids, the monotony of daily routine. You have certainly brought joy to our lives!

As a small token of our gratitude, we are giving away a lovely Hot Dinner Happy Home apron emblazoned with our fabulous new logo. In order to win this highly coveted prize, all you need to do is leave a comment. It doesn't need to be anything fancy; your name, your thoughts on our new design, your favorite birthday tradition, whatevs. We will pick a comment at random, and that person will be our winner. Entries will be accepted until midnight Pacific time on Sunday, September 25.

Happy birthday, Hot Dinner Happy Home!

P.S. Many thanks to Sandra Busta for the lovely logo!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'll be Brief by The Lady of the House

As you may recall, this week my family and I are heading a few miles across town to some new digs. Moving is quite likely the most heartening of domestic events, fraught with a range of emotions all settling down to one hope: the hope of "home." Somehow while you're scrubbing schmutz off cupboard doors, and trying desperately to get surfaces to feel like new, you're having your own little Louisiana Purchase moment, staking your claim. Okay, maybe that's just me. At any rate, on Monday, I scrubbed, mopped and dusted our "new" San Francisco flat built in 1926, and it'll be a while before it feels like home. Needless to say, I'm a bit short on time, so I thought I'd post a little link love.

As I stare at all these blank walls, I've got ART on the brain. Here are some inexpensive and positively lovely posters just begging for a spot in your home and mine.

--I have always loved these quirky maps, probably because I wasn't born with any sort of internal compass. They're not only fun to look at---they actually help you get your bearings! Wouldn't the Heart poster be perfect for Valentine's Day?

--I bought this poster for Erin for Christmas, and I've got one in black hanging in my own kitchen. If you're reading this blog, I'm guessing one may be welcome in your home as well.

--For those of us that think about things like typefaces, printing methods, and cool wedding gifts, try this route. I have always coveted the aqua ampersand.

--I adore Amy Butler's textile designs. Now she's taken the best bits and turned them into iconic prints. Genius! Wishing you could slap your powder room walls in decadent wall paper? This may be your fix.

--And now for some art that's slightly "off" in a good way... Like what home isn't complete without a print of owls and pigeons partying? Tell yourself it's for your kid. It's totally for you!

Lady of the House

If I May by Lady of the House

* Photo by Jack & Lulu *

I'm usually kept caged until Wednesdays when I'm let out to post and play here, but when I read Erin's post yesterday morning I couldn't stop myself from sharing a few recipe box finds. I don't own a recipe box, so I wondered, what's out there? I've divided my results into some silly, if not non-existent stereotypes. (Do you have a kitchen alter ego?) Now it's just a matter of choosing which one!

-For the folksy type that picks wild flowers...

-For the little ones--it's never too early to start collecting I suppose...

-For the utilitarian with a cheeky side...

-For the preppy minimalist...

-For the zen master...

Ok, back to my cage!

Lady of the House

Friday, September 16, 2011

Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Chicken Chimichangas are a staple at our house. I've been making these for years, and the recipe has morphed several times. This latest iteration has been around for about a year, and I finally took the time to write down the recipe.

Only this time, the husband had a request. "Can you add more cheese to mine? Like, a lot of cheese." And I obliged.

I made half the recipe husband-style (insanely cheesy, on the left in the photo below) and the rest old school (moderately cheesy.) Feel free to pick your poison.

Baked Chicken Chimichangas
Serves: 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2.5 teaspoons chili powder (or to taste)
3 cups cooked, shredded (or cubed) chicken (I used chicken breasts from a rotisserie chicken.)
1/2 cup chicken broth (or water, if you don't have chicken broth on hand)
8 flour tortillas
1-2 cups shredded cheese (monterey jack, cheddar, or pepper jack are our favorites)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Salsa, sour cream, and guacamole, for serving

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion and saute for 8 minutes until it's softened and golden brown. Add garlic, cumin, and chili powder and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds until the spices are fragrant.

Stir in chicken and broth (or water.) Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil. Allow liquid to simmer for about 5 minutes, until mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat.

Divide the chicken mixture evenly among tortillas. Top chicken mixture with cheese. (If you want your chimichangas husband style, really load it up with cheese.)

Tightly roll up tortillas and place them into a 9x13 baking dish. Brush the tops of the tortillas with melted butter. (If you're going for husband style, load even more shredded cheese on top of the chimichangas at this point.) Bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until the tortillas are golden brown and crispy.

Serve with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Soft Boiled Eggs

As you may have gathered, I'm the primary cook in our home. The husband, however, has several specialties. He is the ultimate grill-master, for one. (His lime cilantro marinade is proof of that.) He is also the breakfast expert in our family. His pancakes are light, fluffy, and delicious. Waffles? They're sublime. And eggs are his bailiwick.

Today's recipe is a family tradition for the husband. These are the eggs his grandma made for him when he was a little boy. It took him many, many Saturdays to perfect her recipe, which he developed himself. They don't look overly swanky, but you won't notice when you're shoveling buttery toast dripping with rich egg yolks into your mouth.

So, without further ado, the husband cooks...

Soft Boiled Eggs
Serves: 1

3 eggs, preferably room temperature
2 slices bread
Butter (lots)
Salt and pepper (lots)

Bring a pretty full pan of water to a boil. Add eggs, cover, and turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit in the water for about 6 minutes until they are soft boiled. (If you have a little, red egg thermometer like the one pictured in our pan below, it will let you know when they're at this stage.) While you're waiting, toast the bread to your desired crunchiness. Using your implement of choice (we go with the pasta spoon), fish the eggs out of the hot water.

Rinse the eggs under cold water so they don't continue cooking. You want those yolks to stay runny and not set up all the way. 

Take a sharp knife and give each egg a swift whack right through the middle. The sunshine yellow yolk will reveal itself in all its glory. 

Use a spoon to scoop out the eggs and place them in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, you could probably serve the eggs as is with toast on the side, but then it wouldn't be the husband's soft boiled eggs. Read on to learn the technique he learned from his grandma. 

Schmear lots of butter on your toast. 

Place the buttered sides of your toast together, forming a butter sandwich, and rip the break into bite-sized pieces. 

Pile the toast pieces on top of your soft boiled eggs. 

Stir it all together, and eat it as one delicious, yolky, buttery, mess. Remember your childhood days with grandma, and smile. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

All tuckered out.

Well, folks, this is a pretty pathetic post. I'm giving myself a day off from cooking because I'm tuckered out. The husband and I recently returned from a trip to Seattle to celebrate the wedding of his brother to his beautiful bride.

It was a fabulous wedding and a wonderful visit with family and friends, but there's a chance I didn't get enough sleep. The red-eye flight home didn't help. So, I'm cranky. Now I'm going to head to bed early in hopes of un-cranking myself. Wish me luck.

No, actually wish the husband luck. Poor fella has to deal with the whining.

Back with more good eats on Monday!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pom Pom Tutorial

This past weekend I had the extreme pleasure of attending the wedding of dear friends in--of all places--Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I also had the extreme pleasure of responding to the bride's request for a "just married" sign for the back of their ridiculously beautiful '57 Porsche Speedster.

Beyond the sign's structure, I immediately thought of pom poms, and I thought it might be fun to share my method. It's quite simple, really.

Gather your materials. I chose four types of organza ribbon, while cream tulle served to provide the loft and bulk I needed. You'll likely need only scissors in addition to the ribbon and tulle. (I also bought three cowbells and a bunch of jingle bells to intersperse. The sound as they drove away was the epitome of celebration, but that's just my take!)

Begin by clutching the tulle in-hand, gathering from the center of the material. Be sure to pinch from the center as you go along, as this will give you the roundest and most symmetrical pom pom. Insert your ribbons at a ratio of four to five wrinkles of tulle per ribbon. There's no real formula--just what you think will look best.

Keep this up until your fist is full of ribbon and tulle. If you're about to drop it while you're trimming the tulle, your pom pom is well on its way to perfection.

Next grab a similarly colored pipe cleaner, and wrap it at the center of your folds. Quickly bind all your hard work with the pipe cleaner. Twist, twist.

Finally, fluff by pulling ONLY the tulle in opposite directions, taking care to work the circumference of the pom pom. Essentially, you're teasing the pom pom like you once did your bad, bad 80's bangs. (If you tug at the ribbons, they'll come loose. Leave them alone.)

If all goes well, things may look something like this... And as always, feel free to email with any questions. (

{ Lady of the House }

Monday, September 5, 2011

California Chopped Salad

Some things are just meant to go together. Like fresh summer corn and tomatoes. That's why I use them in every single recipe I make lately. Don't judge.

I was chatting on the phone with my mom the day I was making this salad. She started chuckling and told me a story about her college roommate who made a similar salad. The roommate put corn chips on top of her version and called it "California Chopped Salad." Chips? On a salad? I couldn't pass that up. So, in honor of my mom's roommate, give today's recipe a try.

Want to take it from side dish to the main event? Add some black beans or a few slices of rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.

California Chopped Salad
Serves: 4

2 limes, juiced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (Use the good stuff.)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

3 ears corn on the cob, silks and husks removed
4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
1 pint grape tomatoes
A handful or two of tortilla chips, crumbled

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside. (If you don't feel like whisking, just shake everything together in a jar, like I did.)

Meanwhile, bring a very large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until it's cooled to the touch. Cut the corn off the cob and place in a large bowl. (See my post on Therese's Corn and Tomato Salad for pictures of this step.)

Add Romaine and tomatoes to the corn. Pour dressing over the top and toss to combine. Serve topped with tortilla chips.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Bars

I needed to make a "bar" dessert, and I was looking for something delicious, awesome, and easy. With those qualities in mind, I turned to a trusty cookbook, the 175th Anniversary Celebration Cookbook from Randall Memorial Baptist Church.

I happen to love church cookbooks. I read the names of the men and women who submitted each recipe and wonder what kind of folks they were. Or, if I happen to know them, I always have a happy memory to think back on. And, from my experience, church cookbooks have the market covered on delicious, awesome, and easy desserts. The first dessert I made when the husband and I moved to Milwaukee and were invited to a new friend's home was Honey Bun Cake. Thanks, Debbie Alcott for that one. Hurricane Oatmeal Cake? That gem can be attributed to none other than my fabulous mom. Debby Brown's Death by Chocolate Trifle has come through on a number of occasions.

When I made today's recipe, I wasn't concerned. The bakers of Randall Memorial Baptist Church have had my back on a number of occasions. As I started making the bars, though, I got a bit nervous. It didn't feel right. The crust mixture seemed a bit dry. Was I missing something? And it didn't cook too long. Was it really done? I went to sleep with a feeling of unease as my bars finished cooling in the fridge.

When I woke up, the bars were the first thing on my mind. Did they look better? I peered under the foil. No. They still looked a little dry and crumbly. Nuts. Well, maybe I'd just cut them up. Doggone again! These suckers are tough to cut while they're cold, and I was already late for work. My nerves rising, I cut off a little sliver and popped it in my mouth for a taste test.

Ho-ly cow. I should have known the church cookbook would come through! These suckers were AWESOME! They looked dry, but it was a trick. They were delicious. The husband had a taste test, too, and he had the perfect description. "They taste like Oreo balls." And they do.

So, don't doubt the church cookbook. Just make these.

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Bars
From: Dondra Decker in the 175th Anniversary Celebration Cookbook from Randall Memorial Baptist Church

1 18.5 ounce package fudge cake mix
2 eggs, divided
1/3 cup vegetable oil
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry cake mix, 1 egg, and vegetable oil until crumbly.

Reserve 2 cups for topping. Pat remaining crumb mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat together cream cheese, sugar, and remaining 1 egg until light and smooth.

Stir in chocolate chips. Spread cream cheese mixture over baked crust and sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake 15 minutes longer. Cool before cutting. Store in refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving.