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Jeff Mauro’s Italian Beef Stromboli

Italian Beef StromboliAs I was nursing my third cup of coffee on Saturday morning, I still wasn’t feeling up to leaving the warmth of my snuggly blanket. It was your typical frigid New England morning complete with sleeting rain. The couch was a safer bet.

I had already watched Farmhouse Rules (love), The Pioneer Woman and Trisha Yearwood’s show which I rather like even though I dislike country music. That woman can cook.

And that’s usually the end of my Saturday television watching. The Kitchen follows Trisha and I’ve never really gotten into watching it. Probably because I’m feeling kind of guilty for sitting in front of the tv that long by the time The Kitchen comes on.

Or maybe it’s because that’s as long as I can keep the girls away from the Wii on Saturday mornings. Yes, that’s what usually brings my coffee/food show happy time to a close.

But by some stroke of luck, no one asked for the television this past Saturday morning. So there I stayed and watched an episode of The Kitchen. This episode was all about game day food and one recipe caught my eye. Jeff Mauro was making an Italian Beef Stromboli that looked outlandishly good.

Soft chunks of slow roasted beef slathered with provolone cheese and hot peppers all rolled up in a beautifully browned pizza crust. It looked so good that I actually braved the sleeting rain to pick up the ingredients.

And while I wanted to share my next installment of my Kardashian cookbook review (no I haven’t given up on that, sorry to say), this couldn’t wait. I had such amazing success with Jeff’s recipe that I wanted to share it with you so that you have plenty of time to pick up the ingredients before next weekend’s big game.

Let me show you why this recipe is a winner…

Italian Beef StromboliYou start with a chuck roast. Now on the show Jeff says to make the roast for dinner one night and then use the leftovers for this recipe. Don’t listen to that advice. If you follow his recipe and use exactly the same measurements, you will have enough meat to fill two strombolis like the recipe calls for. If you eat half of it the night before, your strombolis won’t have enough filling.

Italian Beef Stromboli

How gorgeous is this roast? My house smelled like Italy in the very best of ways. SO much garlic!

pizza dough

I used my favorite pizza dough recipe for this stromboli, but you could make your life easier by buying pre made dough from the store. I doubt anyone will notice or care if you take this simple shortcut.

Italian Beef Stromboli

Once the meat is shredded and the dough is rolled out, the fun begins. The shredded beef is piled on top of slices of provolone and then you layer red peppers and peperoncini peppers overtop. The original recipe calls for giardiniera which is a pickled veggie mix that includes cauliflower. None of my kids are down with pickled cauliflower, so I used the peperoncini instead.

Italian Beef Stromboli

I also added one extra layer of cheese, because…cheese! Why not? Everything is supposed to be a little over the top on game day. Extra cheese for the win!

Italian Beef StromboliAfter it was done baking I opened the oven and angels sang. Ok, maybe there weren’t any angels singing, but the kids were standing there with plates in hand oohing and ahhing which is almost as good as singing angels.

So if you are looking for a game day appetizer, look no further. This is it. An appetizer touchdown for sure!

Are you cooking up any nibbles for the big game? What are your appetizer favorites?

Focus On Gratitude: 45 Things That Make Me Grateful

This post is inspired by my friend Danielle whose birthday is the day after mine. She wrote a lovely post on things that make her grateful. One thing for each of her forty-two years that she has graced the planet.

Danielle is a wonderfully positive woman. In the years that I’ve known her, not once has she had a negative word to say. She is a bright shiny light in my social media world and her posts always make me smile.

As I read through her list, I realized another reason why I am drawn to her. We are thankful for so many similar things. And while it might look that I’ve copied her in my list, it’s just a happy coincidence that two like people are friends. Sort of makes sense.

So let’s get started. A list of forty-five things that I’m thankful for makes a mighty long post. Thank God Im not eighty-five yet…

Girls

Boys

1. My Kids - That sort of goes without saying, right? Aren’t we moms hardwired that way? To be thankful for the most precious gift that we could ever receive? But speaking as a child who didn’t have that kind of mom, I know better. And I think the weight of that knowledge has influenced my relationship with my kids. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not. I can be overprotective and overbearing but at the same time I try very hard to be fair and loving. Being a mom is hard stuff. I’m thankful for the lessons motherhood has taught me and the love it’s brought into my life.

Beach

2. The Ocean- Ever since I was a small child, the ocean has given me a tremendous peace. I am so very grateful that I have lived in a coastal community for my entire adult life. And I’m very happy to report that this will still be true when I relocate. One of my favorite activities is shelling and hunting for sea glass. A simple pleasure that costs nothing, but adds tremendous value to my life. And watching the waves crash on the shore works better for calming nerves than any prescription drug out there.

3. A Good Television Series- I don’t watch much television other than the news and the Food Network. But when I do watch tv, it’s usually in the form of a series watched via Netflix. Right now I’m watching Mad Men and I’m smitten with it. I love being swallowed whole by a series and binge watching it until I’m done. I’ve done this with other shows like Downton Abbey and Girls. Although Girls lost me when the writing started to weaken, but for awhile there I was addicted.

4. Vintage Pyrex- But you already knew that about me, right? Nothing thrills me more than finding a beautiful vintage Pyrex piece for a buck at a yard sale. I could have a thousand bowls and I’d still have a hard time resisting picking one up on the cheap at a yard sale. I guess there are worse things (and more expensive) to be addicted to.

friends

5. My Friends-  There’s not enough space in this post to share a picture of all the friends I’ve been blessed with who’ve supported me not only this year, but many years prior. The past three years in particular have been very trying. My friends have been there for me through thick and thin. I look at them as family and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for blessing me with them.

6. My Father and Donna- My Dad and his wife Donna are really the only family I have besides my children. And while it sounds like a very small family, it’s enough. They love me and I love them. You can’t ask for much more than that when it comes to family.

Camera

7. My Camera- While I don’t think it’s good to put too much value on “things”, there are a few things that I own that I adore. The aforementioned Pyrex being one of them and this camera. I am so very very thankful that I was able to purchase my camera to help me grow my photography skills. I’m still learning how to use it, but every time I touch it I feel a deep sense of gratitude that I have a solid camera to work with.

8. Blogging- I had no idea how much blogging would change my life when I wrote my first post. The friends that would come into my life, the opportunities that would be given to my family and the job opportunities that came my way were all directly related to this blog. And while blogging doesn’t pay much in the way of dollars, it’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.

9. My Readers- What’s the point of having a blog if no one ever reads it? My readers (that means you) bring me so much joy. When I hear that a reader gets something from my posts it makes my day. Without you there’s no blog. So thank you for that!

10. Birds- At the risk of sounding like I’m entering my golden years with binoculars in hand, I’m going to share that I LOVE listening to birds. It’s right up there with walking on the beach. I went to Costa Rica last year and that was one of the highlights of my trip. Tropical birds are squawky things and so much fun to listen to. But I do enjoy local birds including blue jays, cardinals and especially birds of prey like eagles. I have one exception. Woodpeckers. I am so excited that my next house is made of brick. Good luck with that, woodpecker.

Wine

11. Wine- Cabernet Sauvignon is my wine of choice and there’s nothing quite like it after a very long day. God bless the grape.

chocolate

12. Chocolate- Of course wine would be quickly followed by chocolate. My favorite chocolate is good old fashioned Hershey Bars. But if I’m going to go fancy, it’s going to be Fran’s. Their salted chocolate caramels are the best.

13. Swiss Miss- Almost every day of my life starts with a cup of coffee with a pack of Swiss Miss mixed in. No other hot chocolate will do. Just Swiss Miss. It’s my one very odd addiction. At least the only one I’m willing to share with you. Ha!

14. Spring Summer and Fall- Ok, this is really three things, but you get the idea. The three months out of the year that I’m physically comfortable. I don’t do cold well. Thank goodness I’m moving to a more temperate climate. These New England winters have been something.

15. October- Oh how I love the fall. It’s the most splendid time of the year. Why does it have to be so short? I guess good things are that way sometimes. Lovely and fleeting. The crunch of leaves under my boots is almost as satisfying as sand between the toes.

Cooking

16.Cooking- Some people knit, sew or paint, I cook. I am so very thankful for my abilities to whip up good stuff to eat in the kitchen. While some people look at it as drudgery, I find joy in it. Feeding my family and sharing recipes with my readers gives me so much satisfaction.

vintage cookbooks

17. Cookbooks- I collect two things, Pyrex and cookbooks. Seems to go hand in hand, right? And if it’s a vintage cookbook, all the better. I know that in this age of Pinterest people go online for most of their recipe needs, I still find it much more satisfying to flip through a cookbook. I’m a little old fashioned this way.

vacation

18. Vacations- Getting away with the family is such a treat and honestly a privilege. And I’m so thankful for the places I’ve explored with my kids and also without. I know it’s a luxury that not everyone gets to experience and I am so thankful for the travel opportunities that have come my way. This coming year I will hardly travel at all. A huge change from years past. This year is the year of transition and all my focus and resources have to be on the move ahead. That said, I do have one family trip planned coming up that should tide us over for the year. More on that in the weeks to come.

19. My Wubbie- I have this one blanket that’s been my special blanket for years. It’s just long enough to cover me from head to toe and it’s made of the softest most velvety fabric. It’s what keeps me sane through the winter months. Yes I’m a forty-five year old toddler.

aidan guitar

20. Kid Music- All of my kids play a musical instrument and three of them sing. Listening to them play makes me incredibly happy and proud.

21. Pedicures- If I’m getting my toes painted it means I’m going to wear flip flops. And this usually means that I’m going somewhere warm or the seasons are changing. Pedicures mean happy feet and a happy heart.

22. Trees- My love for trees is right up there with my love of birds. Such a strange thing to find joy in, right? It’s not like they do anything. But still, I love them just the same. My new house has a forest in the backyard and four mature crepe myrtles in the front. I am looking forward to seeing them bloom.

Bacon

23. Bacon- For the obvious reasons. Bacon. Do I need to say anything more?

24. My Laptop- It would be really hard to blog without a computer. I am so thankful that I have a laptop and internet service. Something that is a luxury if you think about it. This thing is the lifeline between you and I, so for that I am entirely thankful.

25. Hugs and Kisses- There’s nothing like a spontaneous hug or kiss from my kids. And if it comes from my teen son, a miracle.

26. Gas Points- Thank you Stop & Shop for keeping me fueled with cheap gas. May your program last for all of my remaining days on this planet.

27. My flatiron- I’m not sure who invented the thing but they deserve some kind of award. You’d never see a picture of me without it.

28. Social Media- Ok, this one can go two ways. It can be a blessing and a curse. As long as you remember that people are usually posting there very best moments on Facebook and ground yourself with the knowledge that not everyone leads an amazing life every second of every day, social media can be a huge blessing. I love staying in touch with my friends and seeing the good things that are happening in their lives. And I love sharing my life with them. But once again, just remember that it’s not always rainbows and cupcakes every day.

Skype

29. Skype- Another invention that deserves an award. Over Christmas break I used Skype to stay in touch with my kids. I am SO thankful for this technology and know that I will rely on this when the kids are spending time with their father down the road. I’ve also used it to have a long distance cocktail party with my girlfriends. A mighty fine communication tool indeed.

Shells

30. Shells- I already kind of mentioned this, but I do believe it needs it’s own line item. I adore collecting shells from beaches around the world. It fascinates me how unique shells are to the area where they are found. And the sea glass too. All the different colors are fascinating. I have a glass hurricane jar full of shells I’ve collected over the years. I love marveling at them all.

31. Good Doctors- I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for exceptional medical care. I’m profoundly thankful for the doctors in my life who put me back together again after the accident. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on that. That goes for the nurses, physical therapists and home health aides too. Fine peoples.

32. Books- I don’t often have time to read, but when I do I thoroughly enjoy a book that I can get lost in. You know the kind. The one that you will stay up until 3am to read? I love those.

Palm Trees

33. Palm Trees- I already listed trees, but palm trees are a category unto themselves. Seeing them means I’m on vacation while wearing flip flops with pedicured toes. The happiest trees on the planet.

hair color

34. Hair Color- It’s magical.

35. Happy People- I’m with my friend Danielle on this one for sure. There’s something about being with positive people. Uplifting. I try very hard to surround myself with positive people because it affects me in every way. Positive people are contagious.

36. The 4th of July- It’s my favorite holiday of the year. I love everything about it. Celebrating our freedom is a precious thing. Of course fireworks, pigging out on grilled foods and hanging with friends is fun too, but I love the heart of this holiday. In all of its red white and blue spangled glory.

37. Amazon- I cannot even begin to tell you how much time and money Amazon has saved me. It’s completely changed the way I shop. And Amazon Prime is the cat’s meow. I remember the days of running from store to store to find what I needed. Those days are long gone.

38. Teachers- As a mom of special needs kids, good teachers are a HUGE gift. I am so thankful for the teachers that have had a positive impact on my kids’ lives. Precious gems for sure.

39. Snow Days- I am just as giddy as the kids when there’s a snow day. Not that I love snow, mind you. However, I do love lazy winter days when I can cook the kids a hot breakfast, burrow under the covers on the couch and just chill for the day. Oh, and no lunches to pack. Bonus!

40. Bonus Fries- Those stray fries that are stragglers in the bottom of the takeout bag when you think you’ve eaten all the fries that were in your box. Those fries taste the best.

fire

41. A Roaring Fire- There’s nothing like the snap crackle and pop of a fire. And the smell is heavenly. It calms me the way waves do. Rather hypnotic.

42. My Bed- I’m a total nester. My bed is a mess of pillows and thick comfy blankets. Sleeping is delicious. If past lives were a thing, I might’ve been a bear previously.

kids

43. Sibling Peace- As a mom of four, moments of sibling peace need to be appreciated. I cherish the times when there’s harmony between all kids. Not that this happens very often, but when it does oh how I enjoy it.

44. A Good Hair Day- Ok so I’m reaching here, but YOU try listing out forty-five things you are thankful for and see how you do. A good hair day is especially nice when you are a curly girl. Humidity is my enemy.

45. Second Chances- I am most thankful for second chances. God has given me many of them throughout my life and I am a better woman for it.

On Age and Acceptance

Melanie AnnapolisIn four days I will be forty-five years old. Earlier last year I had a grand plan. I would lose those last ten pounds that are stubbornly clinging to my body and have my photos done by a fabulous photographer friend. I’d show forty-five and the rest of the world who’s boss.

But then the year went on and what a year it was. Even though the divorce was good compared to other people’s horror stories, it was still pretty miserable. And I might’ve drowned my sorrows in a few chocolate baked goods along the way.

What was supposed to be the year of salad turned out to be the year of calorie dense carbs and wine.

Looking back on my poor coping skills and stress eating of 2014, I’m lucky I didn’t gain ten pounds. I really should’ve. But my metabolism did something miraculous for once in my life. It kept things sort of stable, at least where my weight is concerned.

So here I am today. Just about forty-five and not exactly where I’d like to be when it comes to my weight and appearance.

But here’s the thing, I’m ok with it. I’m not beating myself up over my weight loss fail. On the contrary, when I look in the mirror I’m feeling kinder towards my reflection.

That lady in the mirror went through a lot in 2014. And if I didn’t know that lady in the mirror, if she was a stranger to me, I’d tell her to focus on what’s good in her life. I’d tell her that life is a journey, not a race to the finish.

Isn’t it funny how we can encourage strangers but not ourselves? Or at least that’s the case with me. It’s so much easier for me to build others up than it is to encourage myself. Well, that’s the way it has been for most of my life.

I feel a change happening now.

So I didn’t get to pose for you in a pair of skinny jeans and heels. Instead you get to see a woman who’s smiling with a few laugh lines around her lips and a midsection that jiggles a little when she laughs.

But at least she’s smiling and laughing. There’s that.

The Hunt

ChapelMoving is a scary thing. An out of state move is even scarier. I’ve been out of state the past several days looking for our new house and the search has been exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

Looking for a new home is actually lots of fun. It’s sort of like a treasure hunt. And out of the thirteen homes I looked at this past weekend, each one had something wonderful to offer.

The scary part was trying to picture my kids in each of the houses. Would they like their new rooms? How would they like the neighborhood? Could there be potential best friends behind the neighbor’s doors? Would they like the schools and their new teachers?

So many questions and concerns.

I looked at each and every room through my kids’ eyes and my own. Trying to balance their needs and my desires. And in the end, I think I found something good. A nice home in a very good school district. You can’t ask for much more than that. Only that they will like it. Yes, that is the most important thing.

The picture above is a hint. Got any guesses on where I’m moving to?

A New Year

Here we are. It’s 2015. In some ways I am very thankful that 2014 has drawn to a close. And then there’s another part of me that’s a little nervous about this new year. But before I get way ahead of myself, let me catch you up on how Christmas went.

Not that there’s very much to say about the situation. The kids were with their father this year and they weren’t with me. That’s typically how it goes with divorce. One parent has them and the other does not.

I knew that this first year apart would be hard, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how very hard that would be. It’s part of the reason why I’ve been silent for the past two weeks. Not being with them was painful and pretty much sapped the writing ability right out of me.

And no, there wasn’t a way to share them during the holiday because we all went out of state to spend it with friends and family. I went to one part of Florida and they went to another many hours away. But we did keep in touch via Skype and that was better than not seeing them at all.

I guess that’s all I should say on that situation because it’s over now and there’s no sense in dwelling on it. The kids had a lot of fun visiting loved ones and that makes me happy. And I got to spend a couple of days in Saint Augustine which was entirely lovely.

And that’s a wrap on 2014.

Now about this new year…

Anything has got to be better than 2014. Next to the death of my baby, the divorce has been the second most painful experience of my life. So 2015 will be my year of rebuilding, finding a new way and making new traditions and experiences for my children.

A move is on the horizon and with that comes more change.

I’ve been telling the kids that this is going to be an adventure because we really have no idea how this will all play out. Kids don’t like uncertainty. So I’m doing my best to keep it positive and I remind them daily that even though things are fuzzy looking right now, it will be ok. That we will all be ok and good things are coming.

I have to remind myself daily of that too. Moms don’t like uncertainty either.

Other than a move, I have no thoughts or expectations for this coming year. I have no New Years resolutions other than forging a new path.

This will be a year of settling my soul because 2014 left lots of bumps, bruises and hurts.

I hope this will be a year of healing, love and patience, for both my children and myself.

And even though that sounds very simplistic, I think it’s going to take a lot of effort on my part to make this a year of peace.

Thank you for being patient while I was quiet the past two weeks. It was good for me to stay silent. I needed the time to think and spend time with people who care about me. It really helped make the holiday more bearable.

I hope your holiday was grand. And I wish you the very happiest New Year. May this be a year of peace and love for all of us.

xoxo

Broken Tradition

KidsWe are a family of traditions. Every Christmas certain things need to happen or the planet spins out of orbit.

It starts Christmas Eve with an old chipped gingerbread man plate that we’ve had since my ex and I got married. Even though the plate is chipped, the kids still insist on putting cookies on it so that Santa will have something delicious waiting for him upon arrival.

Carrots are also left on the front lawn for the reindeer because they too need refueling after a long cold journey from the North Pole. And if it’s a year when I happen to have oats in the cabinet, they get a handful of those too.

Around 3am on Christmas morning you can usually find me in the kitchen cutting cinnamon roll dough because they need a final rise before the kiddos get up. So there I usually stand, in my jammies complete with apron tied overtop, rolling and cutting the sweet dough stuffed with cinnamon and butter.

Once the pans are filled, I crawl back into bed hoping for another solid four hours of sleep that never comes because the kids are usually awake shortly after my head hits the pillow.

And then the torture starts. This too is a tradition. Before we tear into the gifts, Mom makes everyone sit down to have a proper breakfast complete with the cinnamon rolls, homemade quiche, fruit salad and juice. Oh, and coffee. Copious amounts of coffee due to the 3am cinnamon roll wakeup call.

No one likes this tradition of having breakfast before opening gifts because of that whole delayed gratification thing. Even though Mom lets them open their Christmas stockings during breakfast, the kids are certain I’ve formed this tradition to make them miserable.

But the truth of the matter is that I created this tradition for them because when they become adults they will understand that the best part of the holiday is the time spent together. I also hope by then they appreciate how much work it takes to make those damn cinnamon rolls.

But this year tradition breaks and new traditions form.

This will be my first year waking up without my kids on Christmas morning. It’s not my year to have them.

This is not something I thought about as much as I should’ve during the divorce process. Maybe the mind skips certain things when it can’t handle the stress.

And there are no oats in the closet this year which I guess is just as well.

No one will be waking me up at 4am asking if it’s time to go downstairs yet.

There will be no cinnamon roll dough stuck underneath my wedding band that I always forget to take off while baking.

No one will be subject to my mandatory Christmas breakfast before the gifts are torn open this year.

All the traditions are broken or at the very least modified. Because I can still do some of the traditions with my kids when I see them afterwards, but it won’t be the same.

And I’m starting to wonder if  Christmas and all of the other major holidays on the days that I don’t have my kids, are those going to be the years that I just skip the whole thing? Sleep the day away hoping that the time passes swiftly? Or maybe that this is just awful right now because it’s the first year?

I don’t know. All I know is that this year is tough. And that the chipped gingerbread man plate tucked safely away in a box feels like it’s shattered on the floor right now and I’m standing barefoot in the midst.

In The Kitchen With Kris, Chicken Pot Pies and Brownies

Kris Jenner Chicken Pot PiesSo are you ready to dig into Kris Jenner’s cookbook In The Kitchen With Kris? Let’s see if this cookbook is as awful as the Amazon reviews says it is, shall we?

As I mentioned yesterday, there are seventy-one recipes in this book. There are also some personal anecdotes sprinkled in along the way that might be meaningful to you if you follow the family or their show. I do not, but I still read the entire book because I felt that it might shed light on the cook and quite frankly if people read A Beautiful Bite solely for the recipes and ignored my personal story, I’d probably feel a little insulted. So yes, I read the entire book.

Now, I thought I might be in trouble when I read the first recipe. It was for Cream of Wheat. Like the kind that comes in the box with the instructions already printed on it. When I first saw that I thought I might be doomed and that the reviews might be justified. And then the second recipe was for clarified butter.

If the next recipe had called for an Easy Bake Oven I might not have been surprised.

But you can’t judge a book but its cover or even by just two of its recipes, so I skipped ahead a bit and settled on two recipes that seemed like a good choice for tonight’s supper. Chicken pot pies and good old fashioned brownies. Foods my kids would surely eat on this cold and blustery day.

Kris Jenner Chicken Pot PieChicken pot pie is complete comfort food when made right. Too many times I’ve had a lackluster pie filled with canned veggies and wallpaper paste consistency sauce. Making a good flavorful pie takes a bit of work and this recipe took a heck of a lot of work. Like so much work that I was cutting a sweat at one point. Where was the ease of that first Cream of Wheat recipe?

Kris Jenner Chicken Pot PieFirst, there’s a bunch of different veggies in this recipe. Leeks, fennel, zucchini, carrots, shallots, asparagus and peas. Well, there would’ve been peas if I followed the recipe exactly, but peas are not my cup of tea. So they did not make the cut.

I spent a lot of time chopping, blanching and sautéing . Kris loves her veggies for sure. And not your typical veggies either. I can’t ever remember putting asparagus or zucchini in a pot pie. And fennel? As if. That just doesn’t sound right. But still, I put it in because even though I’ve never prepared it that way doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be good.

Something I tell my kids all of the time. Just because you haven’t tried it before doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Sometimes you’ve got to walk the talk.

Kris Jenner Chicken Pot PieThis recipe also calls for a homemade herbed pie crust. No Pillsbury pie crust for Kris Jenner! One thing I found odd was that her recipe calls for putting the egg wash on both sides of the crust. Top and bottom. I have no idea why one would need to do that, but I followed the instructions. I was committed.

Kris Jenner Chicken Pot Pies and LeelaInto the oven the pies went. I was a little nervous that the kids wouldn’t like this recipe because of the zucchini and the fennel. Fennel is a rather adult taste and not all kids like it. I actually do enjoy fennel, but was also unsure I’d like it in a chicken pie.

After about a half of an hour the house started to smell rather incredible. And slowly each kid came into the kitchen to see what was cooking. When I pulled the pies out of the oven, there were many oohs and aahs. I have to admit, they were rather grand looking.

Kris Jenner Chicken Pot PiesBut looks aren’t everything. You can have a beautiful looking pie and it can taste like hell. Been there, tasted that. So let’s start by evaluating the crust. This crust recipe called for all butter. I prefer to make my pie dough with a mixture of part butter and part Crisco. I’ve found that that combo produces the flakiest crust.

Kris Jenner Chicken Pot PiesBut Kris’s crust? It was beautifully flaky. You can totally see how flaky it is in my images. And the tarragon in the crust was a nice touch. Just the right amount so that you could taste it but it didn’t overtake the dish.

Kris Jenner Chicken Pot PiesAnd how about the filling? I will give you my adult perspective first and then I’ll tell you what the kids thought…

First, the sauce was exactly as it should be. Rich and creamy. Not gloopy and paste-like. The addition of brandy made this dish a little extra special and definitely appealed to my adult palate. But do you want to know what the real star of the show was? The damn fennel. Go figure. It made the dish.

Now the kids, they were divided. All liked the pies and ate up their dinner, but each kid was into or not into certain veggies. One loved the zucchini while another thought that the omission of potatoes and addition of wild card veggies like asparagus and zucchini was chicken pot pie blasphemy.

But they all agreed that the crust was killer. Each one was picking off crusty bits from the bowls and all looked indignant when I took the bowls away. Chipping off crust with your fingernails is far from civilized dinner table behavior. Ahem.

Kris Jenner BrowniesOn to dessert! I chose Kris’s brownies because hello chocolate! As we all know, I adore chocolate. So this was a sort of no-brainer for me. But I will tell you this, I am super fussy about brownies. If it doesn’t taste like heaven I won’t waste the calories. And while my kids are happy with Betty Crocker from the box, I am definitely not.

My all-time favorite brownie recipe hails from Boston, MA. Rosie’s Bakery makes a brownie called a chocolate orgasm. It is perfection. Nothing else has ever compared and that’s the recipe I judge all brownies against.

Kris Jenner BrowniesAs I was making Kris’s recipe, I thought that it was going to be WAY too sweet. Like sickeningly. Besides two cups of sugar, the recipe calls for two cups of chocolate chips. And in case you are wondering, that was an entire bag of Nestle Morsels. As I spread the batter into the pan I got a glob on my finger which I instinctively licked off.

Hmmmm, this tastes pretty fruit loopin’ good, I thought. Truth be told, I scraped a lot less batter out of that bowl than I should’ve. And then I licked the spatula once I was done with the bowl. So much for it being too sweet.

Kris Jenner BrowniesI showed a crap ton of restraint by allowing those brownies to cool completely. And the only reason I did that was because the kids were home and I wanted to set a good example. But once those brownies were cool, I sliced them into large fudgy squares and placed them in the corner of my kitchen. Far from eyesight because it isn’t right to eat brownies before dinner. Or for dinner which is what I wanted to do.

They were the bee’s knees. I’m not saying they are better than Rosie’s, but it’s ridiculously close. Kris can cook brownies for me any day of the week.

I will say this, I highly doubt Kris or her family indulges in these brownies very often because HOLY FATTENING! There’s no way they could keep their hourglass shape if they did.

But for you and me? Game on! These are especially perfect for that time of the month when you need ALL OF THE CHOCOLATE! I will for now on call these Period Brownies because that time of the month I will want these. Period.

So that wraps up this installment of Kooking with Kris. Two solid recipes that clearly the Amazon reviewers haven’t tried because if they had, they might’ve written something a lot more positive. Because Lord knows I’m a picky girl and these two recipes are worth cooking.

But that doesn’t mean I’m telling you to run out and buy the book. Two successful recipes out of seventy-one is not enough evidence yet that it’s a cookbook worth investing in. Let’s see what happens in a few days when I try a few other recipes, shall we?

This is not a sponsored post. There is an affiliate link in this post for Kris’s book.

In The Kitchen with Kris (and Melanie Too!)

Kris Jenner CookbookThis past weekend found me at Barnes and Noble with Leela looking for a book for her to read. And while she spent what felt like hours touching every single book in the kid’s section, I gazed longingly across the way at the cookbooks. There was a giant holiday display of new releases and many of them were on my wish list.

And if I had been true to my normal self, my impulse purchase would’ve been either The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum or Baking Chez Moi, Dorie Greenspan’s latest masterpiece. Because you know me, I’m a sucker for a good cookbook. One actually might call me a cookbook addict. While most of the population is gravitating towards digital download cookbooks, I still relish hard bound cookbooks with real pages that I can dog ear and take notes in. I’m very old school that way.

Once Leela finally made her selection, which was ironically the very first book she had touched, we walked over to the cookbooks. I walked around the table looking at each book, thumbing through the pages just like my daughter had in the kid’s section. I felt it only fair that I take my time. One must flip through cookbooks before committing. My readers who are cookbook aficionados can appreciate that, I’m sure.

After perusing all of the options, I came to the corner and there sat a book that caught my eye. Kris Jenner’s In The Kitchen With Kris. This caught my eye for several different reasons. First, I didn’t know she could cook. But this sort of goes without saying because I know nothing about the woman. I also know very little about the Kardashian family.

I’m sure that comes as a shock to you because who doesn’t know the Kardashians? I’m the only one waving my hand right now, I’m certain.

You see, I don’t watch television. Sure I catch the occasional Food Network show more because I’ve actually met and spent time with some of the personalities who have shows on that network. As you know, I’ve been to Ree’s ranch, so of course I find that show to be entertaining because I know Ree.

But beyond that, I do not watch television. I also don’t read magazines that aren’t about food or home. So I’m in this little bubble over here, ignorant of many icons in pop culture. So it’s no surprise that I didn’t know that Kris can cook.

It also took me by surprise because I haven’t heard anything about this release. As a food writer I get press releases almost every day with all of the new books that have been published. Not only did I not get anything from the publisher, I also haven’t heard a single mention of this book in the food world. Nada.

And I guess the last thing I found odd was why would she even have to cook to begin with? I would imagine someone so wealthy would have a live in chef. I’ll be honest with you, if I had her money I would absolutely have a chef. Cooking for four kids is exhausting.

So I left the store without purchasing any of the cookbooks. But when I got home, morbid curiosity got the best of me and I went on Amazon to read the reviews for Jenner’s book.

There are currently 62 reviews of this cookbook on Amazon and they are brutal. Averaging 1.5 stars, this book isn’t being received well by many.

And as I read through the reviews, something struck me. For the most part they were reviewing the family, not the cookbook.

Call me a softy, but that really isn’t fair. I mean, if the cookbook is awful, then so be it. The reviews should stand. But what if the recipes are good? Shouldn’t that mean something? Very few of the reviews critiqued the recipes and the ones that did were abysmal for the most part.

So I decided to cook my way through Kris’s book. Giving each recipe a fair and unbiased assessment because if there’s anyone on this planet who can do that, it would be me, the woman who knows nothing about her or her famous clan.

My dream is to publish a cookbook someday. That’s why I write A Beautiful Bite. My life hasn’t been perfect. I’ve made mistakes myself. I would HATE if someday I wrote a book and someone judged it on my past sins or hated it solely because I am not conforming to what people expect me to be. I want my book to be judged on the recipes inside the cover. That and that alone.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Starting tomorrow I will publish a post weekly that reviews recipes made from this cookbook until I cook every single dish in the cookbook. There are only seventy-one recipes. It’s not like I’m cooking through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

It will be JUST like Julie & Julia minus the French accent, plus millions of dollars.

What’s the worst that could happen?

This is NOT a sponsored post. I actually bought this cookbook with my own hard-earned money. Kris doesn’t know I exist and I’m quite certain it will remain that way. The links to the cookbooks mentioned in this post are my referral links.

Getting There

Peppermint Hot Chocolate MixSo you know that I’m the MOST self-critical human on the planet, right? I am. Nothing I ever produce is good enough in my own eyes and my food photography has been the biggest thorn in my side since I started food blogging.

Part of my problem is that in my mind I have to be the best at what I do. Period. Many of my friends are food writers and photographers. One of my friends shoots for the New York Times. Another is one of the food photographers for Southern Living. So that’s what I compare myself to. Or at the very least that’s what I aspire to be.

And while that might sound absurd to most people, it actually makes me work harder. Even if I’m seeing nothing for my labors in the present, that’s ok. Well, I’m not totally ok with that because yes, I’d like to get reimbursed for my work. But I recognize that every professional has to start somewhere and we all have to pay our dues.

You’re probably sick of hearing me talk on this topic. I mean, it’s been three years that I’ve been writing on A Beautiful Bite, but guess what? I’m seeing progress. I’m actually happy with some of the work I’ve produced as of late.

See that mug of Peppermint Hot Chocolate above? I’m sort of smitten with that image. Sure the recipe is killer, but just look at that marshmallow defying gravity on the left side of the mug! God bless that marshmallow.

Oh and just so that you know, just seconds after I got that shot I lost my balance and fell over on that board sending the mug and all of its contents spattering all over my rug and curtains. Progress indeed.

LobsterPoutineThen there was this recipe…

 Lobster Poutine. If I had to walk away from my food blog today and only choose one recipe to represent me, Melanie, for the rest of eternity this would be it. Holy MOLY was this an epic recipe. Perfect in every way. So fruit loopin’ delicious and a damn near perfect image to boot. Honestly, I thanked God after that shoot for the lessons he’s taught me and for the people he’s brought into my life who’ve mentored me. I am so thankful.

SconesAnd then there’s this image from today. This recipe was a sort of joint effort. Actually it hasn’t even been published yet. I’ve not named it or even framed a post for it in my head. I started working on it today and it started when I texted a friend for their input on beer. I was standing in the package store texting one friend about the right beer to purchase for the recipe while simultaneously texting with another friend about different types of mustard that I was considering for this appetizer.

As I got their opinions I couldn’t help but appreciate my friend network and how much they affect my work. I’m telling you, as a food writer it helps to have a friend who can explain the differences between a stout, pilsner and a lager.

Avocado FrittersThese good feelings couldn’t come at a better time because it’s been tough around here as of late. For the obvious reasons for sure, but for professional reasons as well. This past week a very large website in Ireland took one of my recipes and published it in its entirety on their site where it was shared nine thousand times. In the United States that would be called plagiarism. But there wasn’t much I could do about it. Can I tell you how much it would cost to take legal action overseas? You don’t want to know.

But the week wasn’t a total loss. The Loop in Canada had reached out to me a couple of weeks ago and asked for permission to share my very popular Avocado Fritters recipe. They promised to do all of the right things like share my image with a link back to my original post so that the reader has to come to my site to get the recipe instructions.

And guess what? They did everything exactly right. However they forgot to tell me one thing. The title of the post. Not a big deal, right? How bad could it be?

You’re Going To Love How Our Balls Taste In Your Mouth.

When the traffic started pouring in I clicked over to see the post and damn near died when I saw the post title. I’ve been praying for exposure, but that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. At all.

Heavens to Betsy life is so weird.

Goodbye Eau de Turkey #SmellsClean

Wild TurkeysMy house still smells like turkey. At least it did until yesterday when I started sprucing things up around here. Have you ever cooked something on the first floor of your home and found that the smell settled in the upstairs rooms? That’s what happened over here. Every room on the second story smelled like Thanksgiving days after the holiday was over.

TurkeyAnd I have to say, for the first day or so I found that smell rather comforting. Proof positive that I spent thirty-six hours slaving away over a stove. Even after all of the dishes were washed and put away, I could still smell my holiday bird while nestled in my bed. Who needs dryer sheets when you’ve got turkey in the air?

Plug InsBut two days later I had enough of that smell. Opening the windows wasn’t an option because HELLO it was freezing out. So cold. So instead I lit a few candles and plugged some nice smelly things into the outlets. Goodbye eau de turkey, hello Frosted Cookie Party.

And have you seen the new scents in the smelly aisle? Er I mean the cleaning aisle? I don’t know about you, but whenever I walk down the cleaning aisle at the store I tend to sniff every good smelling thing on the shelves. They make it way too easy to buy every scent. And I have to say that the Frosted Cookie Party is a winner!

One Frosted Cookie Party and one Merry Citrus Melody later, my house smells more like Christmas than Thanksgiving. Which makes sense because Christmas is twenty-three days away. Are you ready? Neither am I. But at least it smells festive around here!

This is a sponsored post for Acorn. All thoughts and opinions are my own.