Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Baby Greens, Apple & Onion Salad

I'm a big fan of salads. My typical lunch is usually chicken and baby greens topped with dried cranberries, goat or feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. But things have changed.

Two weeks before Christmas, when I was stretched thin and looking for fast and easy foods to put on the dinner table, I found this salad. It quickly became my new favorite (I had it for lunch again yesterday) and I know I'll be eating this often as I try to detox after the holidays. I’ve already memorized the recipe.

The dressing whips up in 5 minutes. The taste is such a great combo of sweet and tart that I don't even miss the cranberries and cheese. 

This simple salad goes nicely with a festive meal, too. I made this for Christmas at my mother-in-law's house. To keep things stress-free and simple, she ordered a catered holiday turkey dinner from Kroger. Despite the pre-cooked bird needing more time in the oven than we anticipated, the food was delicious and we were able to spend more time with each other rather than in the kitchen.

When we got to dessert (my sister-in-law whipped up a lemon meringue pie and I baked a Brownie Pudding Cake) I was pretty glad we had added the salad! 

If you need something green to go along with a New Year’s meal or you are craving a healthy and light main dish, give this salad a try. Add some cooked chicken or turkey and dinner is served.

Happy New Year and Mangia! Mangia!

Baby Greens, Apple & Onion Salad
Inspired by Rachel Ray

¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon grain or brown mustard
1 tablespoon honey
16 ounces salad greens (baby spinach, spring greens or a mixture)
1 large apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (Golden Delicious or Fuji works well)
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
Ground pepper to taste

Place oil, vinegar, mustard and honey in a small jar or plastic container. Cover tightly with a lid and shake until well blended. 

Place greens, apple and onion in a large bowl. Pour dressing over greens and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Here's the salad brightening up our Christmas dinner.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

A while back a friend on Facebook posted about preparing cabbage rolls. While I wanted to make them, too, there are just way to many steps involved for a cabbage dish I wasn't sure anyone in my family but myself would appreciate.

Flash forward to a couple weeks ago, a friend on Facebook posted a link to unstuffed cabbage rolls. Genius. Now, we're talking. I whipped up these unstuffed cabbage rolls, adding red wine vinegar to the original recipe.

The verdict: we loved this meal. Well, Jeff, Penny and I did and we ate it for two dinners in a row. I couldn't believe it. The husband is not a big fan of cabbage or eating the same dinner back-to-back. Lucy, however, couldn't get past the mere sight of cabbage in her bowl.

Next time I might add a dash of paprika in keeping with the Eastern European heritage of the dish. You could easily add rice, provided you added more water along with it.

Next time you are searching for old school style comfort food, I hope you think of unstuffed cabbage rolls. I certainly will.


Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small to medium-sized cabbage, chopped, making sure to remove the hard stem that runs up the middle
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) no salt added diced tomatoes, not drained
1 can (8 ounces) added tomato sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add ground beef and onion and cook, stirring, until beef is no longer pink and onion is tender.

Add garlic and continue cooking for one minute.

Unless your skillet is big enough to accommodate all the other ingredients, transfer the beef mixture to a large pot or stock pot before adding the other ingredients.

Add the cabbage, tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine vinegar, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until cabbage is tender.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

There's a forest worth of wrapping paper littering the living room. Half-eaten candy canes are stuck to the upholstery. We're kicking ourselves for forgetting to buy another pack of AAA batteries. It's Christmas.

As we gather around the table with our families and friends today, we want to express our gratitude to you, our dear readers. You give us the best gift...the gift of your time. Thank you for taking time out of your busy days to read Hot Dinner Happy Home, for following along on our culinary adventures and sharing your kitchen creations with us. We are so thankful for you!

Wishing you the happiest of holidays!
Amy, Andrea and Erin

P.S. Enjoy a peek into our celebration...Erin's kids enjoying the tree in their holiday finery. (Insert all the heart-eye emojis.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Erin's 2015 Christmas Menu

We do beef on Christmas. In Christmases past, we've made Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Shallots, Bacon, and Port. It's good stuff.

This year we're celebrating the holidays with the husband's family in Seattle. Now that we also live here in the Northwest, it's the first year that we get to sleep in our own beds and wake up to our own Christmas tree and still see family. We're pretty excited about it!

As I've mentioned a plethora of times, my mother in law is pretty much the best cook ever. I've learned so much from her! On Christmas, the husband will help her make a prime rib seasoned with a blizzard of salt and pepper, seared over high heat to form a crisp crust, and roasted in a low oven to buttery perfection. It's divine.

I'm in charge of some sides this year. On Christmas Eve I'm bringing my mom's Cheesy Potatoes to the extended family gathering. For Christmas dinner I'm contributing Potato Gratin with Smoked Cheddar Cheese. My MIL has made this one several times, and it's good. She said it's pretty easy if you use your food processor to slice the spuds. And it transports easily. I'll just bake it at home and we can re-heat it at her house.

Because there's never enough cookies on Christmas, I'm also bringing Cardamom Cookies. They have all the flavors of the holidays.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Andrea's Christmas Antipasto

We're spending Christmas in Cincinnati with my husband's family, whose holiday meal tradition is that dinner is different each time! This year, our big meal will be a turkey dinner on Christmas Eve, as some of our group will depart Christmas Day to visit other family members.

On the Tortora side, Christmas Day means raviolis with homemade tomato sauce and meatballs, and hot and mild Italian sausage. The meal always begins with an antipasto. This is a huge platter of salami, ham, prosciutto and other cured meats like capicola, plus provolone and mozzarella cheeses, assorted olives, pickled mushrooms and eggplant and stuffed hot peppers. Roasted garlic cloves, Italian bread and focacia round out the spread.

The appetizer is much like a charcuterie board. It's a great dish to serve at parties, especially during the holiday season. And you might be surprised at how much the kids enjoy it, too.

Last Christmas during our antipasto course, we discovered how much Sam enjoyed proscuitto, which he calls "thin meat." For weeks afterward he requested prosciutto sandwiches in his lunch box. Sam's love of this cured ham was re-ignited when he met this gorgeous platter at a gathering hosted by his Aunt Karen (who also took this photo.)

Karen's neighbor Kim crafted this masterpiece, and I'm planning to re-create it this week. Kim was thrilled that Sam and Karen's nephew Harrison were willing to try out the different combinations of meat and cheese. Here's Kim, sharing her foodie knowledge with newbies Sam (in orange) and Harrison:

The big surprise came when Sam consumed all of the proscuitto, all by himself. Luckily, Kim was a good sport, noting that at least the meats were domestic and not imported!

If you want to go all out, do get some Proscuitto di Parma for your table. It's definitely worth spending a little extra to try the real thing. Need tips on crafting the perfect charcuterie board? Click here. And if you enjoy beautiful charcuterie photos, check out In Parma by Food Roots on the web or follow the London restaurant: @inparma.

Merry Christmas and Mangia! Mangia!

P.S. Here's a shot of my family from last night as we enjoyed some Christmas decorations.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Amy's 2015 Christmas Menu

It's late on December 21. Do you know what you're cooking for Christmas dinner? I thought I'd share my family's favorite Christmas main course: Real Simple's Peppered Roast Beef with Horseradish Sauce.

Photo by Real Simple

This year, I will serve  this roast beef with steamed green beans, Julia Child's Potato Dauphinois (scalloped potatoes) and an apple pie from Tootie Pie Co. in Texas, a delicious gift from a client who is way too good to me.

A word about the main dish. This beef is so good that I regret all the years I wasted serving ham on Christmas. This beef is so good that one year we heard my dad humming as he ate. This sauce with this beef is so good that my mom and mother-in-law have each made it repeatedly. This dish is so good that I don't think hubby would  like me serving anything else on Christmas -- not that I ever plan to.

Another tradition in my family: Christmas crackers -- wherein we pretend we're British (the hubby is good to put up with this) and crack open the traditional favors and don paper crowns. We always snap some pics, exclaiming "Happy Christmas!" just as the Brits do. The kids love it and so do I! To read more about Christmas crackers, click here.

Happy Christmas!


Friday, December 18, 2015

Pork Chops with Apple Shallot Pan Sauce

We are mere days away from the winter solstice, and it is dark around here. Seriously, people. Seattle is really far north, and it looks like midnight at 3:30 p.m. Add in the cloud coverage and pouring rain...gross.

To combat this crummy weather, I need cozy food. Simple, belly-filling meals like Pork Chops with Apple Shallot Pan Sauce. It comes together quickly (leaving you plenty of time to wrap a few Christmas presents), but it still feels special. You could totally serve this to company and look like a rock star.

Why don't we show this dreary darkness who's boss and make some hot dinner.

Let's get cooking!

Pork Chops with Apple Shallot Pan Sauce
Inspired by Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Shallots
Serves: 2

1/2 tablespoon oil
2 boneless pork chops, 1 1/2" thick
Salt and pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium apple, thinly sliced
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high. Generously season pork chops with salt and pepper and sprinkle with thyme on both sides. Add pork to pan and cook until pork chops are browned and release easily when you try to move them, about 5-7 minutes per side. Remove pork chops to a plate and tent with foil.

Reduce heat to medium and add butter, apple, and shallot to the pan. Cook until the apples begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return pork chops and any accumulated juice to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the pork is fully cooked. This will just take a few minutes. (Pork should reach an internal temperature of about 145 degrees.) Tent with foil and allow pork to rest for 5 minutes before serving with the apple shallot sauce.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lime Ginger Cookies

The first time I made these cookies was a few years ago for a cookie swap. We ate all of them before the event took place and I had to make another batch. They are that good.

The combo of lime and ginger adds a flavorful zing that really makes these goodies stand out. The taste gets even better a day or two after you bake them.

When I decided to take part in the 2015 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (which partners with Cookies for Kids' Cancer) these goodies immediately came to mind. Once you grate the lime zest and fresh ginger, the kids can definitely help out by rolling the dough balls and coating them in the fragrant lime-ginger sugar.

Need more holiday cookie recipes? Be sure to check out some of our favorites: Kris Kringle Rice Krispie Treats, Ginger Cookies, Cherry Orange White Chocolate 7-Layer Bars, and Sugar Cookies.

Mangia! Mangia!

Lime Ginger Cookies

1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons grated lime peel
1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 to 3 teaspoons ground ginger
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Optional: coarse green sugar

Preheat over to 350 degrees and position rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly grease baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Using a food processor, combine sugar, lime peel and fresh ginger. Cover and process for up to 3 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl during this process. Set aside ½ cup of sugar mixture.

In a large bowl combine the rest of the sugar mixture, butter, egg yolk, lime juice, corn syrup, ground ginger, vanilla extract, baking soda and salt. Beat with an electric mixer on low and then raise speed to medium. Mix for about 2 minutes until well blended.

Beat in about half of the flour on low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and beat until everything is incorporated. If dough is too dry, add up to a ½ tablespoon of water. If dough is too wet, add up to 3 tablespoons more flour.

On a cutting board or rolling mat, shape dough into a flat disk. Cut into quarters. Then cut each quarter into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.

Place reserved sugar mixture into a shallow container or plate. Roll dough balls in sugar to coat.

Place dough onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Slightly flatten tops with bottom of a glass. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until edges are light brown. Centers will be soft.

Place cookie sheets on wire racks to cool. Sprinkle with coarse green sugar, if desired. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container or freezing.

Monday, December 14, 2015

White Puttanesca Linguine

When I think of the things I never thought I'd buy at the grocery, you know what's near the top of the list? A tube of anchovy paste. Yet, I assure you that it is absolutely essential and absolutely yummy in this easy, weeknight dinner dish.

My former colleague Liz turned me onto this dish and she advised using anchovy paste over actual anchovies. This is one of her go-to dishes when she has to throw together a quick dinner after a busy day at the office. It's one of mine, too. Thanks, Liz!


White Puttanesca Linguine
Adapted from

1 pound linguine
1/4 cup (or even a little less) olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Anchovy paste
Pinch of salt
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 heaping teaspoon capers, drained of liquid
12-18 oil-cured black olives*, pitted
Grated Parmesan cheese for topping, if desired

*Oil-cured black olives can be found on some grocery stores' anti pasta bars. Whole Foods has them. But I often cannot find them at my regular grocery and so I often use the unpitted variety and just tell hubby to mind the pits. The kids don't eat the olives anyhow.

Bring pot of water to boil. Add linguine and cook uncovered over high heat until al dente.

A few minutes after you add the pasta to the pot, heat olive oil in large pan over medium high heat. Add garlic, anchovy paste (three big squirts will do), salt and red pepper. Cook until garlic starts to soften. Add capers and olives and continue cooking until garlic is lightly browned.

Drain pasta and add to pan with the sauce and combine until all the of linguine is coated with the oil. Serve immediately. Top with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Friday, December 11, 2015

2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Favorite Foods

Today we're wrapping up our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide with the tastiest treats we enjoy in our happy homes. (Looking for more gift ideas? We have you covered on cookbookskitchen gadgets, and kitchen equipment too.)

Let's get cooking!
Erin, Andrea, and Amy

Disclaimer: These ideas are solely the opinions of your favorite bringers of hot dinner. No companies or manufacturers asked us to provide reviews or compensated us for writing about their products.

Erin's Favorites:

Penzey's Spices: I heart Milwaukee. This home-grown company provides delicious spices at reasonable prices. Stores are popping up around the country, but if there isn't a shop in your hometown, keep your eyes peeled for free shipping offers. (For example there's free shipping through midnight tonight!) My favorite Penzey's spices are Herbes de Provence and Chili 9000. Also, I love the seasonal catalogs Penzey's sends out. They're packed with tons of great recipes, including this Apple Cinnamon Bread. --Erin

Sendik's Wicked Brownies: Sendik's was the grocery store a few blocks from our house in Milwaukee. Everything they made was delicious, but my favorite treat was their Wicked Brownies; gooey brownies studded with chocolate chips and a thick ribbon of creamy caramel. A perfectly decadent dessert. I ate as many as I could before we moved away, but that didn't satisfy my cravings. Imagine my joy when I discovered that Sendik's ships Wicked Brownies anywhere in the country! The husband bought be a box of "Not-A-Nutter" Wicked Brownies for my birthday this year, and I was the happiest lady in town.  --Erin

    Amy's Favorites:

    Esther Price ChocolatesGrowing up in suburban Dayton, Ohio meant eating Esther Price chocolates every Christmas. We always had a four-pound box of assorted chocolates that my grandma would pick up at the East Dayton store. Now there are Esther Price stores in Cincinnati, too. And you can find Esther Price's gold foil boxes in grocery stores throughout Ohio and in locations in Indiana and Illinois. Or, you can shop online. I'm partial to the opera creams and my dad loves the chocolate covered cherries. I see that Esther Price has teamed up with Dayton potato chip maker Mike-Sells to now offer chocolate covered potato chips -- oh my! --Amy

    Strawberry Hill PoviticaPovitica (poh-vuh-teet-suh)  is a traditional Eastern European dessert or breakfast bread -- kind of like a nut roll. I married into a povitica as my mother-in-law is half Croatian and from Kansas City, where Strawberry Hill Povitica and a lot of families of Croatian heritage are based. She says she's somehow related to Strawberry Hill's owners, but sadly that doesn't mean she gets a discount. Povitica is pricey -- a lot of work and ingredients go into each loaf, which seems to weigh about what my children did at birth. OK, so the website says each loaf is "just" 2 1/2 pounds. The website also says that one loaf -- $29.99 before shipping -- will feed 20 people and I'd say that's true if everyone eats one small slice. My experience with povitica is nobody can eat just one small slice. Our family's favorite flavor is the traditional English Walnut. --Amy

    Zabar's Holiday Blend Coffee 16oz (Kosher)

    Zabar's Coffee: I love to give coffee lovers the gift of java from Zabar's, New York City's renowned purveyor of gourmet and kosher foods. While the lox and bagels are no doubt divine, Zabars coffee is the perfect way to warm up in the winter. Zabar's also puts together a variety of gift baskets and boxes, which makes nice gifts for family, friends, colleagues, and clients. --Amy

    Andrea's Favorites

    Almond Croissants: These buttery and airy pastries are a new tradition at our house. I'm a Williams Sonoma disciple but hadn't tried the croissants until last year. Oh my — they are so good! My boys now request them on their birthdays, too.  The dough arrives frozen and you simply take out the number you want to bake and let them thaw and rise overnight. Pop in the oven for a few minutes in the morning and you've just turned any holiday (or birthday) breakfast into something extra special. --Andrea

    Panettone: I grew up eating this traditional Italian fruit-studded cake at Christmas time. My grandfather would arrive at our house with several cakes. The year he discovered personal-sized panettone lives on in our family lore because my cousin Allegra could not stop saying, "I got my own little panettone!" These days you can find good panettone in most grocery stores. Look for the Perugina or Ferrara brands as they are always moist. Be sure the cake you buy includes candied citron, orange peel or lemon peel. The ones with just raisins are not authentic. You can eat panettone right from the box, lightly toasted and topped with butter or as the main ingredient in baked or traditional french toast. --Andrea

    Pizzelles: These wafer thin Italian cookies melt in your mouth. I grew up eating the ones my Aunt Dottie used to make with her pizzelle iron. Hers were always dusted with powdered sugar and flavored with anise and vanilla. These days my mother-in-law often has several packages stashed in her pantry when we visit. You can buy pizzelles at most grocery stores, however, I'm thinking I need to get my aunt's recipe and try my hand at making some! --Andrea

    Peppermint Bark: If you've never tried the Williams Sonoma version of this holiday treat, you have not lived. Made with Guittard chocolate, the candy carries a refreshing peppermint flavor through each layer, thanks to delicious peppermint oil mixed into the chocolate. I say buy one for you and one to give. --Andrea

    Thursday, December 10, 2015

    2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Kitchen Equipment

    Today's memo to Santa includes our favorite kitchen equipment. (BTW, in case you missed our previous installments, we have you covered on cookbooks and kitchen gadgets, too.)

    Let's get, shopping!
    Erin, Amy, and Andrea

    Disclaimer: These ideas are solely the opinions of your favorite bringers of hot dinner. No companies or manufacturers asked us to provide reviews or compensated us for writing about their products.

    Erin's Favorites:

    Immersion Blender: This handy tool makes pureed soups a whiz. Before I had an immersion blender, I had a bit of an incident pureeing hot soup in a regular blender. Let's just say I was cleaning soup from under the cupboards for years. Now my soup prep is mess-free. Use it to make Curried Butternut Squash Soup, a Berry Smoothie, or even baby food. --Erin

    Le Creuset Dutch Oven: The husband bought me a 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset dutch oven several years ago, and it's one of my all-time favorite pots. Perfect for making Beef Stew, Pot Roast, or Andrea's Cincinnati Chili. If I had to choose one pot or pan to use for the rest of my life, this would be it. --Erin

    Amy's Favorites:

    Cuisinart PerfecTemp Stainless Steel Steel Cordless Electric KettleLast year, I had to give up coffee for health reasons. I switched to tea and this electric kettle helped me through those dark java-free mornings. It heats up water super fast, doesn't take up space on your stove top and has an automatic shut-off. Plus, there are settings for different kinds of tea -- black, white, green, oolong and delicate. There's even a French press setting for you coffee drinkers. --Amy

    Instant Pot 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker, 6 QT: I buy myself a lot of cooking gifts and last year this was one of them. Totally worth it. In fact, for a while I  was saying I was cheating on my slow cooker with my pressure cooker. Truth is, I couldn't feed my family on the regular without both handy appliances. This model is easy to use and cleans up like a dream. See our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide post on cookbooks for a pressure cooker cookbook recommendation. As for what to make in yours, check out my Pressure Cooker Chicken Noodle  Soup, Midwestern Vegetable-Beef Soup and Shrimp Curry Under Pressure. --Amy

    Black Diamond rglam

    Vitamix Professional Series 500: I'm not sure what I could write to convince you go pay upwards of $500 on a blender. It makes no sense except it does. It beats paying $200 on a blender that you will never use. The Vitamix -- the one with programmable settings for smoothies, hot soups and frozen desserts -- is a fine machine. I'm sure we will have it years; it comes with a seven-year warranty. For the first year and a half or so, I used my Vitamix daily for smoothies for me and my husband and then we tired of smoothies every single day. I still use it a lot for smoothies. I also use it when I need to emulsify ingredients -- i.e. recently for a mole chicken chili. I have also used it to make banana ice cream. (Note to self: post smoothie and banana ice cream recipes to this blog.) Next year, I want to make more nut-based vegan creams and for that the powerful Vitamix is super handy because you don't have to soak the nuts in advance. --Amy

    Andrea's Favorites

    Cuisinart Pro Custom 11-Cup Food Processor: The more I cook, the more uses I find for my food processor. The tool makes so many preparations so much easier. I love using it to slice apples for Apple Crisp or Apple Pie. The list is endless. For those who love to cook, a food processor does it all, from chopping, slicing and grating to mixing and blending. I use mine to make everything from Triple Almond Chocolate Banana Pudding to Green Rice. --Andrea

    Crock-Pot Programmable Touchscreen 6.5 Quart Slow Cooker: Thanks to the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbooks from America's Test Kitchen, I'm using my Crock Pot more than ever before. This model works beautifully and I like the digital count down for tracking the cooking time. The most recent meal I made in my slow cooker was Erin's Beer Braised Pot Roast. It's also great for Pork Tomatillo-Verde Tacos and Thai Peanut Pork. --Andrea

    Ninja Professional Blender: This model offers 3-way speed control and a single serve blade. It comes with two single serve cups which are perfect for whipping up smoothies. The Ninja does a great job chopping fruit and veggies. It's perfect for emulsifying Berry Vinaigrette and Thai Dressing. And it's the next best thing to an immersion blender when you need to finish off Butternut Squash Soup. --Andrea

    Wednesday, December 9, 2015

    2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Kitchen Gadgets

    Now that we've shared our favorite cookbooks, here are some of the tools we use to make our time in the kitchen pay off.

    These kitchen gadgets make meal prep a snap. They also make great gifts (hint, hint)!

    Best wishes for some happy cooking.

    Mangia! Mangia!
    Andrea, Amy and Erin

    Disclaimer: These ideas are solely the opinions of your favorite bringers of hot dinner. No companies or manufacturers asked us to provide reviews or compensated us for writing about their products.

    Andrea's Picks:

    Foldio: If you're reading this blog, you probably take pictures of food just like us. This cool portable photo studio is on my wish list this year. I always struggle to reduce shadows in my foodie photos and this little cube does that and so much more. I hope Santa is reading this post. --Andrea

    Microplane Zester: I use this tool at least once a week. It's super handy for zesting oranges, lemons and limes, fresh ginger, garlic and any number of other ingredients, including Parmesan cheese. --Andrea

    Miu France Stainless Steel Professional Mandoline Slicer: My husband picked this up several years ago and I'm glad he did. The mandoline makes slicing potatoes and vegetables a breeze. Packet Potatoes come out so crispy when prepped with the mandoline. --Andrea

    Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Liquid Measuring Beakers Set: These beakers are making my time in the kitchen a bit less crazy. I no longer need to search out my measure spoons because these little nesting cups are always easy to find. The stable bases do indeed prevent spills and everything cleans up in the top rack of my dishwasher. --Andrea

    Erin's Picks:

    CDN Digital Thermometer: I have had this baby for years. I was always afraid of over- or under-cooking meat until I got this handy tool. Who would have thought that a simple thermometer could give me so much confidence in the kitchen? --Erin

    Skrub'a Potato Gloves: My mom bought me these gloves, and when I first saw them, I thought she was a little crazy. I mean...they're gloves for cleaning potatoes. Then I used them. In addition to adding a bit of novelty to scrubbing potatoes, they make cleaning spuds a breeze! Skrub'a Gloves are the perfect stocking stuffer for the potato lover in your life. --Erin

    Zyliss Ice Cream Scoop: My mother-in-law bought us this ice cream scoop a few years back, and it gets a lot of use. You see, I eat quite a bit of ice cream. Most nights the husband and I scoop up a frozen treat after we tuck the kids into bed. Chocolate chip cookie dough for me. Vanilla ice cream with bananas and hot fudge for the husband. I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to ice cream, and this handy gadget makes scooping ice cream a treat in itself. --Erin

    Amy's Picks:

    Curious Chef 3-Piece Nylon Knife Set: I got these knives for my own curious chef, my daughter Penny, 6, so that she can cook alongside me. I welcome the help cutting veggies for my Pressure Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup or chopping dates for a cake or for my No Sugar Banana Bread. Perfect stocking stuffer for the young sous chef in your life. --Amy

    KitchenAid Pouring Shield: I bake a lot and I always double the recipe. Without this shield for my stand mixer, my kitchen would be covered in a layer of flour. Essential item for bakers. --Amy

    Le Creuset Stoneware Butter Crock: I got tired of buying spreadable butter and wondered why we can't just leave real butter on the counter like the French do. Well, with this handy butter crock we can. Just fill the bottom with a bit of cold water and pack the butter into the lid. My husband was skeptical that it was $40 well spent until he realized how much easier fixing the kids' waffles and toast before school is now. --Amy

    Food Chopper

    Pampered Chef Food Chopper: My mom got this handy chopper for me and I use it mostly to chop nuts to go into baked goods. It's also good for chopping vegetables like celery and onions. Added benefit: decent arm workout. --Amy

    Spicy Shelf Patented Spice Rack and Stackable Organizer: Christmas came early for me. My husband recently picked up two of these stackable spice racks at our local hardware store and put them together for me. I wouldn't care if he didn't get me anything else, because I've been looking for a way to organize my spices for ... well forever. I like that it can adjust to fit a narrow pantry or expanded and even doubled for a wider cabinet like mine. I also like that you can adjust the levels so you have a row for small bottles like cloves and saffron and a row for taller bottles like oregano and paprika. --Amy

    Monday, December 7, 2015

    2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Cookbooks

    We get asked A LOT about our favorite cookbooks. But how could we pick just one? That's like asking us to name our favorite child; honestly, it depends on the day.

    Yet we know you have holiday shopping to do. You might want to pick up a cookbook for the foodie in your life or to drop some hints on the titles you'd like to unwrap. So today, dear readers, we offer up some of our faves.

    Amy, Andrea and Erin

    Disclaimer: These reviews are simply the opinions of the ladies at Hot Dinner Happy Home. No publishers asked us for endorsements or compensated us for writing about their cookbooks.

    Amy's Picks

    Great Food Fast
    Despite having the ugliest cookbook cover of all time, this is a good introduction to the pressure cooker. I got a pressure cooker this year -- a gift to myself --- and these easy-to-follow recipes came in handy. After I made Chicken Noodle Soup, it was easy for me to figure out the quantities and timing for my own soups, such as Potato Soup like my mom makes and my Midwestern Vegetable-Beef Soup. For a kid-friendly dinner, try the Pizza Joes. If you are tired of the endless stirring involved in making risotto, then I direct you to the Cajun Crab Risotto.

    The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple But Classic French Recipes
    This book combines two of my loves -- cooking and France. And it's the prettiest cookbook ever with delicious photos of food and Paris. Consider this a great gift for cooks and francophiles as well as those who would appreciate culinary inspiration or a gorgeous cookbook to adorn their kitchen. A word for those who do cook, the recipes are simple, classic French dishes, some with a little twist. For example, there's Coq Au Vin  On Skewers. I once  made our entire Easter meal from this cookbook and it consisted of Lemon an Lavender Chicken, Parisian Asparagus, Creamy Potato Bake and Creme Brulee. Recipes are listed in French and English. --Amy

    The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out
    Is healthier eating a goal for 2016? Blogger Angela Liddon's book is my go-to for healthy plant-based meals. This is a collection of both lighter fare and surprisingly filling dishes. Some of my family's faves: Perfected Chickpea Salad Sandwich, Our Favorite Veggie Burger and Glowing Strawberry-Mango Guacamole. I also like Liddon's smoothies, such as the Classic Green Monster Smoothie, and the On the Mend Spiced Red Lentil-Kale Soup. For this year's Super Bowl, in which our Carolina Panthers might (knock on wood) be playing, I plan to whip up some Life-Affirming Warm Nacho Dip. --Amy

    Product Details
    This cookbook lived up to its title and revolutionized how I think about slow cooking and how often I use my slow cooker, which is all the time. I have lost count of how many people I've given this cookbook to, but I know Andrea is one. I also have the second volume -- the easy prep edition, which is full of recipes that don't take as long to prepare or cook. But I like this one more because more of its recipes require eight hours or more in the slow cooker, which means dinner can cook away while I'm at the office. Some of my family's faves: Barbecued Beef Brisket, North Carolina Pulled Pork, Easy Barbecued Ribs, Classic Thanksgiving Stuffing and Big-Batch Bolognese Sauce. --Amy

    Andrea's Picks:

    America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
    So I love to bake, but baked goods aren't always so healthy. Same with the Mexican-inspired dishes my family loves. Thanks to a recommendation from a neighbor, I've found healthier versions of these recipes. I'm still working my way through it, but the Better For You Banana Bread and Layered Tortilla Tart are excellent! --Andrea

    A Family Christmas Cookbook
    My brother gave me this cookbook nearly a decade ago and despite the title, I use it all year long. Many of the recipes are very similar to meals and goodies I grew up eating, like Ricotta Cookies, Pesto Sun Dried Tomato Pate, Country Chicken and Spiced Red Cabbage. Best thing about this book? It offers numerous recipes for the same dish, which makes it easy to customize to your own tastes. --Andrea

    Indian Inspired Gluten Free Cooking
    My husband and I love Indian food. Our old Cincinnati neighborhood boasted at least five Indian restaurants. This cookbook demystifies the cuisine and the recipes are surprisingly easy to prepare. Try the Spinach with Lentils and Coconut, Spinach Lentil Rice and the Broccoli with Red Onion and Ginger. I've given this cookbook to several friends. -- Andrea

    Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2: The Easy Prep Edition
    The original Slow Cooker Revolution made me fall in love with my slow cooker all over again. I find that I use the easy-prep version more often these days because our family life is increasingly busy and I don't often want to take the time required for lots of crock pot preparations. The Cuban-Style Pork Roast with Mojo Sauce and the Mexican-Style Pulled Pork Tacos are favorites in our house. --Andrea

    The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon
    Blogger Sara Forte's newest cookbook is my favorite of the year. Bowl + Spoon is filled with simple, wholesome and delicious meals, sauces, sides, dressings, sauces and desserts. Many recipes are vegetarian, which is helpful as I'm always looking for non-pasta meatless meals. And the photos are simply gorgeous.

    Erin's Picks

    America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
    This list clearly demonstrates our love for America's Test Kitchen. This cookbook is my go-to for the "standards" and has inspired many of the recipes on this blog. Skillet Broccoli with Toasted Garlic and Lemon, All-American Meatloaf, and Pan-Seared Steaks with Red Wine Pan Sauce are some of my favorites. I also love the buying guides and helpful tips scattered throughout the book. --Erin

    An Occasion to Gather (The Junior League of Milwaukee Cookbook)
    This book was a gift from my friends Jill and Kelly when we lived in Milwaukee. I love how it represents the city and my time there. Everything I've tried from this cookbook has been delicious. Plus there are great regional insights, like how to organize a beer tasting, a list of necessities for tailgating, and the perfect menu for a Bunco party. Milwaukee will always have my heart and so will this cookbook. --Erin

    Everyday Food: Great Food Fast
    The title says it all...this book is full of great food that you can get on the table fast. It's full of 30-minute meals, and you'll have most of the ingredients in your pantry. I love how it's organized by season, because, "a change in weather affects how we cook as much as what we cook." --Erin