New England Clam Chowder

It’s cold. Snow and ice are everywhere. We’ve had the fire blazing constantly and are always snuggled under blankets. It’s the kind of weather that makes me want to eat big bowls of soup. All. the. time.

This chowder is hearty and delicious and surprisingly easy to throw together.  Serve it with lots of warm, crusty bread.  Or even these cheddar bacon biscuits.
clam chowder

you will need:
4-6 slices crispy bacon, chopped
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 leek, cleaned and (the white part only) thinly sliced
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 ½ tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
2 cups potatoes, diced
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups clam juice (or vegetable broth)
1 ½ cups little neck clams
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup half & half
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Place a saucepan over medium heat and brown bacon until crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Set the bacon aside to cool, then coarsely chop. Drain all but 2 tablespoons grease, then melt butter. Add onion and carrot and sauté for 5 minutes. Add leek and corn and continue to sauté for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Once onions and leeks are translucent, add thyme and potatoes and stir until combined. Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and stir well to create a thick roux, making sure all of the flour is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Continue to stir and cook for an additional minute to cook off the flour taste.

While whisking, pour clam juice (or broth) into the mixture in a steady stream until fully incorporated and no lumps remain. Turn the heat down to low and allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes, until the mixture thickens and potatoes are almost fork tender. You may need to add ¼ to ½ cup more clam juice if the mixture becomes too thick while simmering.

Gently fold in clams and slowly stir in milk and half & half. Allow mixture to simmer on low for 5 to 7 minutes more. Add garlic powder, cayenne and a bit more salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning according to your liking. Serve in large bowls and garnish with chopped bacon.

*Note: You do not want to cook the chowder too long with the clams in it, otherwise they will get chewy.  Also, use this within 2 to 3 days of making it.

serves: 4
time: 45 minutes
adapted slightly from: Spoon Fork Bacon

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Hello Lovelies.

As you can clearly see, I’ve been absent.  There are many reasons for this that I won’t bore you with…mostly because everyone is busy and I don’t want to whine.

The reason I will explain goes back to my October post about being a working mama.  I really have been trying to unplug; to savor moments with my family.  This means shutting off my computer, putting way my camera, and switching my phone to silent.

It also means that I cook less, or whip up super simple and quick meals that don’t even impress my toddler.  Also, it is dark when I get home from work and I hate taking photos in artificial light!

Sometimes my life is chaos.  Sometimes I don’t have any good recipes to share.  Sometimes all I have is a rant or funny story about motherhood or my tyrant toddler.

I have decided that instead of shying away from blogging about non-food stuff, I am just going to share.  Apologies in advance if that isn’t your jam…feel free to skip those posts.

Self-improvement goal for 2015: work with and embrace what is currently happening in my life instead of always aspiring for perfection.
stress (source)

Thanks for being here.  I love you.

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Spicy Stuffed Pepper Soup

I’m drowning in ground beef.  That sounds really disgusting and terrible, sorry for the unappealing visual image.  But we have A LOT of ground beef in our freezer, like I’m talking 30-ish pounds.  We went halvsies on a half of a cow with our friends, and man, that’s a lot of meat.

I’m trying to think of ways to use the ground beef in ways other than meatloaf and burgers.  I started researching soups and found lots of renditions of a stuffed pepper variety.  So after some research and some digging through my fridge, I threw this together.  It really warms you up on a chilly day and packs a nice little kick of spice.
stuffed pepper soup

you will need:
1 pound ground beef
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon smoked hot paprika (regular paprika would be fine, too)
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large or 2 medium sweet red or yellow peppers, chopped
1 large or 2 medium poblano peppers, precooked, skinned and chopped*
1 – 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 cups beef broth
1½ cups cooked brown rice
sour cream & chives for serving

In a large saucepan, brown the beef over medium-high heat, draining off the excess liquid.  Season with cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper then let brown a bit more.  Reduce heat to medium, and add the olive oil, chopped onions, garlic and sweet peppers and sauté for about 8 minutes, stirring every so often.

Add poblano peppers, tomatoes and broth.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Add in cooked rice just before serving.  Serve in bowls with a dallop of sour cream and some chives.

*I just throw mine on the grill until they are charred, then cover with plastic wrap for 20 minutes, peel and chop. Here’s a helpful post for roasting poblanos from This Gal Cooks.

What do you think?  What are your favorite recipes that use ground beef?  Please share!

serves: 6
time: 40 minutes
cb original recipe

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Good Eats {Travels}: The Ordinary

Our trip to Kiawah was glorious for so many reasons.  One of those reasons was date night.  Matt and I hadn’t gone out on a date for months.  When planning our vacation, I researched Charleston restaurants and debated where to make reservations for our big night out.  I settled on The Ordinary. It seemed like a great date night spot where we could eat food we love but don’t often get to enjoy in Pittsburgh.
The Ordinary I must say, it surpassed my extremely high expectations. The food was absolutely incredible, the ambiance sophisticated but not snooty, and the service impeccable.

We ordered a variety of different small plates and ate every last bit.  We had: Crispy Oysters + Beef Tartare, BBQ White Shrimp with Charred Bread, Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Toast with Lemon & Aioli, Shrimp Gazpacho and of course a dozen oysters and of course dessert.
The Ordinary food collage The BBQ shrimp was the most delicious shrimp I’ve ever had…it was my favorite food of the night.  I also really enjoyed trying the raw oysters.  I’ve been afraid to really dive into them before, as I worried that the texture would be too slimy and the flavor too salty.  I was pleasantly surprised at the layers of flavor and the freshness.  I wouldn’t say they are my favorite kind of seafood, but I am much more open minded to them now.
The Ordinary interior I will certainly go back to The Ordinary again and plan to the next time we visit Charleston.

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On Being a Working Mom…

Motherhood is amazing.  I am constantly in awe of my child and can’t believe how much joy Connor brings to my life.  Just today, I said to Matt, “can you believe we made this kid? How amazing is that?”  I have so much love in my heart when I look at him.  I want to be there for every new thing he does.  My weekends with him fly by so quickly.
mama baby time

This working mom gig is hard.  Way harder that I would have ever imagined…like heartbreakingly hard.  And most days I really like my job.  I am extremely passionate about teaching and feel like I really do make a difference.

Despite feeling very strongly about what I do as an educator, it is extremely exhausting.  I often work 10 hour days, teaching and mothering squirrely middle schoolers.  I usually shove my lunch in my face in less than 10 minutes and don’t sit down for more than 15 minutes all day. When I get home, I try to spend quality time with my boys.  If I can muster up the energy, I’ll cook dinner.  I savor every minute of our bath and bedtime routine, especially since I don’t get to see little boy in the morning.  On most nights I do an hour of work after Connor is in bed.  I try to spend some quality time with my husband before getting 6 or 7 hours of sleep before I do it all over again.  It makes me wonder what in the world we did before we started a family when we thought we were so busy.

On rough days, it is really difficult to remind myself why I spend so much time away from my kid.  It is really easy to get caught up in the cycle of stress and negativity.  It is really easy to feel like I need to take care of everyone else all of the time.  As I get pulled further into that cycle, I continue to not take any time for myself…which in turn makes me a perpetual cranky person, particularly to those closest to me.

I work with a really wise woman who has become a friend that I lean on often.  She says that people have unlimited wants, and if I continue to say yes to people they will continue to ask.  I am figuring out how to say “no;” how to know and respect my limits.  I appreciate her wisdom and her friendship.  It’s because of friendships like hers that I have survived the past 16 months as a working mama.

At the end of the day, I work to help provide for my family.  I work to be an example for my son, to show him that passion and dedication can make the world a better place.  I am trying to get better at unplugging from my phone and computer when I’m at home and really being present for every moment I have with my family.  I am trying to live in the moment and embrace the chaos of life.  I am trying to be gentle on myself and throw away this have-all-my-shit-together version of what it is to be a working mom.

I don’t think it will ever be easy, but I think I can get better at managing my stress and developing some sort of balance.  How do you other working mamas survive, have some sort of balance and manage to do something for yourself once in a while?  Share your wisdom!

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Good Eats {Travels}: Beasley’s Chicken & Honey

On our drive down to Kiawah, we stopped in Raleigh to visit friends of ours.  They took us to dinner at Beasley’s Chicken & Honey for a delicious, Southern dining experience.  I have never fancied myself a huge fan of fried chicken, but holy cow, this stuff was ahhmazing.

The ambiance is fun and relaxed.  Daily food and drink offerings are presented on giant chalkboards on the walls.  Drinks are served in mason jars.  The place was bursting at the seams with people of all ages, loud children included.  My kind of place.

Beasleys I ordered the chicken and waffles and was completely astounded at how much I loved every bite.  The chicken wasn’t oily and was perfectly cooked.  It was drizzled in delicious honey.  For a moment, I seriously considered licking my plate.

chicken & waffles If you have a chance to eat at Beasley’s, do it.  Order the crispy cheese grit fries and some fried chicken.  You will not be disappointed.

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Bobby Flay’s Louisiana Burger

Burgers in the summer are just the best.  The more sauce and toppings you can stack on, the better.  And Bobby Flay makes some great burgers.  The remoulade on this burger is delicious.  I really liked blackening the patties in a skillet with the spice rub.  It added a ton of flavor and kept the beef juicy.  This recipe is definitely a keeper!
Louisana burger

for the spicy remoulade, you will need:
½ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 dill pickle, diced
2 green onions, finely chopped
handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt & pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustards, hot sauce, pickle, green onion and parsley in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Sauce can be made a day ahead.

for the burgers, you will need:
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 slices smoked Gouda cheese
1 red onion, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
1 tomato, cut into thick slices
lettuce for serving
4 hamburger buns, toasted

Make the spice rub by combining the paprika, pepper, salt, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne in a small bowl and set aside.  Divide the beef into four equal portions and form into burger patties.  Season both sides of the burgers well with the spice rub and set on a plate.  Make a deep depression in the center of each burger with your thumb.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat until it begins to shimmer.  Cook the burgers until they are charred and the spices have formed a crust, about 2 minutes.  Turn the burgers over, lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until slightly charred, about 4 minutes more for medium-rare.  Move the burgers to a plate, top each with a slice of cheese and tent with foil.

Add the onion to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until slightly softened, about 2 minutes per side.  Meanwhile toast the buns.

Slather the bun bottoms with the spicy remoulade, then a layer of cooked onions, then the burger.  Top with lettuce and tomato.  If you are so inclined, add another layer of remoulade to the bun tops before digging in.  I did, and it was a fabulous decision!

makes: 4 burgers
time: 15 minutes prep + 10 minutes cooking + remoulade chilling time
adapted from: Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries & Shakes

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{Where to Shop Wednesday} Sabatino’s Quinoa & Kale Chicken Patties

Sometimes shopping at Costco is just plain dangerous.  I can rarely get out of there without spending at least $100.  Why I find the need to buy in bulk so alluring I’m not sure.  I’ll chock it up to living in a culture that values excess.  Or maybe it is because Connor and I can eat our way through the store.

That is exactly how I found these delicious chicken patties.  Connor and I both tried a bite on a stroll through the store and immediately plopped a box in the cart.  Well done Costco, well done.
sabatino's chicken patties
They were perfect for quick and easy lunches this summer and were pretty filling.  I never ate mine with a bun, but I’m sure they’d be great that way as well.  If you see these at your local Costco, I totally recommend picking them up!

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Down the Rabbit Hole

Dear Readers (I’m channeling Jennie right now),

Please pardon my absence.  The school year has started.  I have entered the world of learning 76 student names as quickly as humanly possible, turning into a giant ball of sweat in our un-airconditioned building, sprinting through 5+ straight hours of teaching before I come up for air, then promptly falling asleep as I rock my little boy each night.  Please do not think I am complaining…I love every minute of the madness.  It just takes me a couple of weeks to adjust and get back into the swing of things.

As hard as it is to not spend everyday with Connor like I did in the summer, it is nice to be back at school.  I work with some truly amazing people and really enjoy the kids and families I have the privilege of serving.  Here I am in polka dots on the first day of 6th grade!
1st day selfie My school is located right at an entrance to one of the city parks, which is awesome.  I snapped this photo Wednesday morning on our first class hike of the year.  I love that I work for a school that values getting kids outside, learning about the world around them and the impact we have on every living thing.
1st hike of the year

I have lots of yummy things to share, including restaurant reviews from our trip to Charleston/Kiawah and some good Where to Shop Wednesday posts.

Stay tuned and have a wonderful holiday weekend!

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Banana Fluffernutter White Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Holy cow. fluffernutter ice cream This ice cream means business.  Hands down the best ice cream to come out of my kitchen.  It’s so rich and packs in so many of my favorite flavors.  It lasted forever in our freezer because you only need a little bit to really kick a sweet craving.

you will need:
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups marshmallow fluff
½ cup white chocolate chips
1 very ripe banana, cut into chunks

Add cream, milk, sugar, salt and ½ cup peanut butter to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the peanut butter melts, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Continue to heat until little bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat, then add in vanilla extract and mix well.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until cold, at least an hour.

Once cold, add the mixture to your ice cream maker and churn according to directions. About 5 minutes before it’s finishing churning, add in 1 cup of marshmallow fluff in a few increments, making sure it doesn’t all clump together. Once finished churning, scoop the ice cream into a freezer-safe container. Stir in the remaining peanut butter and marshmallow fluff.  Then add the chocolate chips and banana.  Freeze for at least 4 to 6 hours.

When ready to serve, let sit a room temperature for a few minutes so it can soften and you get all of the delicious goodness in every scoop.

makes: about 1 quart
time: approximately 8 hours
adapted slightly from: How Sweet It Is

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