Thanksgiving for Two

No need for a bird this big!

This year, my husband and I will be relaxing at home on Thanksgiving, just the two of us.  It’s a little strange – every year of my life since birth, I’ve been surrounded by a big group of family members on turkey day.  But it will be nice to relax at home with my love and my fur kids.  Plus, it will be my first chance to have a hand at cooking Thanksgiving dinner from start to finish!

However, a party of two will clearly not need to roast a 20 pound bird and cook up 5 pounds of potatoes.  Most traditional Thanksgiving dishes serve 10 – 12 people – yikes!  But the best part of Thanksgiving (in my opinion) is the leftovers, so I wanted to find traditional Thanksgiving foods in smaller portions that would give us a day or two of leftovers to enjoy.

So, I’ve come up with the menu and thought it would be fun to share.  I searched the ‘net and found some relatively easy-to-prepare dishes that serve 2 – 4 people.  I haven’t prepared any of these recipes before, so I can’t vouch for how they will turn out, but I’ll follow up with another post-Thanksgiving review!

Click here to view our Thanksgiving Menu for Two, as well the full recipes for each dish.  (available on Google Docs)

And just because I’m a total weirdo, I thought it would also be fun to share my shopping list, which I’ve put into an excel spreadsheet.  Each ingredient is listed, along with the quantity needed, the recipe that it is used for, where I can find it at the grocery store, and if I can buy it in advance.  I’m planning to shop once this weekend and once next weekend for our Thanksgiving groceries.

Click here to download my Thanksgiving menu shopping list. (available on Google Docs)

And to give credit to my sources, here is where I found each dish listed in my menu:
Spiced Pecans
Brined Turkey Breast
Apple Sausage Dressing
Turkey Gravy
Cranberry Sauce
Sweet Potato Casserole
Spinach Cranberry Walnut Salad
Maple Pots de Creme with Praline Topping

Please let me know if you try any of these recipes!

Anyone else having a non-traditional Thanksgiving this year?  Please share!

(and have a fabulous weekend!)

Summer al fresco dinner menu

Hi friends!

My husband and I love to hang out at home with our friends and family, and during the summer, you can often find us relaxing on the deck, firing up the grill, and having a few drinks.  I love it!

It’s so much fun to put together easy menus for our get-togethers.  If you are serving an “al fresco” summer dinner with friends, here’s the menu I’d recommend.  It’s light, healthy, delicious – and best of all, much of the food is cooked on the grill so clean up is minimal!

Al Fresco Summer Dinner Party Menu

White Sangria
Antipasti Platter
Cedar Plank Salmon
Quinoa Salad
Asparagus
Grilled Pineapple and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


Greet your guests with a delicious glass of white sangria.  It’s so pretty and fresh!  One of my favorite recipes is very similar to this one by Tyler Florence:

(Image source)

  • 2 bottles dry white, such as sauvignon blanc
  • 1/2 cup Spanish sherry
  • 1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Cointreau)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 bunch seedless white grapes
  • 1 lemon, unpeeled and sliced
  • 2 peaches, unpeeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/2 honeydew, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 liter club soda

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Serve immediately, or if making in advance, refrigerate up to 24 hours, and then add the club soda just before serving.

Set out an antipasto platter for your guests to nibble on while the rest of the meal is grilling.  We like to go to Costco (so classy haha) and pick up prosciutto, cheeses, crackers, olives, hummus, and veggies.  Then just arrange everything on a pretty serving dish – couldn’t be easier!

(Image source)

Next is the salmon.  Be sure to soak your cedar planks for at least two hours before the party.  Also, have a spray bottle filled with water nearby for any flare-ups that might happen as the salmon is on the grill.   My favorite cedar plank salmon recipe is SOOO easy!  Simply brush the salmon fillet with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper, brush on dijon mustard, then sprinkle brown sugar over the top.  The sugar caramelizes and the salmon ends up with the most delicous smoky / sweet / tart flavor.  TRUST me, to die for!

(Image source)

This quinoa salad is already becoming a staple in this summer’s dinner rotation at my house.  I love that it’s spicy and has such a nice crunch of vegetables.  I follow this recipe exactly with one exception:  I add chopped red and green bell peppers for an extra hit of veggies.

(Image source)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups diced cucumber
  • 1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
  • 2 cups finely diced tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

Directions

1. Place the quinoa in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes. Drain through a strainer, and rinse until the water runs clear. Bring the 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and translucent; each grain should have a little thread. Drain off the water in the pan through a strainer, and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dishtowel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If making for the freezer, uncover and allow to cool, then place in plastic bags. Flatten the bags and seal.

2. Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels. If using the onion, place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water and drain on paper towels.

3. Combine the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the quinoa and cilantro. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with sliced avocado and cilantro sprigs.

Yield: Serves six.

Alongside the quinoa salad, serve some yummy grilled asparagus.  We like to throw ours on the grill in a basket or foil packet, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic.  So delicious and simple:

(Image source)

Don’t forget dessert!  Try this recipe for glazed pineapple, and then serve each guest a big ol’ scoop of high quality vanilla ice cream with it.

Directions

Mix 4 tablespoons melted butter, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon each curry powder, cinnamon and vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and a splash of dark rum in a bowl. Slice apineapple in half lengthwise (keeping the top attached), then cut each half into 3 long wedges; cut out the core. Place 2 wedges on a sheet of foil; brush with the spiced butter and fold up. Repeat to make 2 more packets; grill over medium heat until the pineapple is soft and golden on the bottom, 15 to 20 minutes.

What are your favorite “al fresco” dinner recipes?  Please share!

Meal planning made easy

Good morning!  Hope your week is fabulous so far :)

I’ve had a couple of questions about meal planning and how I eat.  I like to create a meal plan every week, and have posted mine on this page if you’re interested in seeing them (and if you can read my chicken scratch handwriting).  The print-outs are courtesy of Artsy Fartsy Mama (aren’t they cute and isn’t that the cutest name for a blog?).

So – here’s how I plan my meals:

1.  Survey your fridge and pantry:

Each week, I take a look at what I have in my fridge.  This week, we just returned from vacation and our fridge was totally empty with the exception of some mustard and hot sauce, haha!  However, we have a ton of stuff in our freezer that I want to eat before buying a lot of new groceries.  In our freezer, we have turkey burgers, frozen shrimp, and some steaks and salmon.  (We tend to buy a lot of our meats from Costco, then portion them and freeze them.)

2.  Start with planning your dinners and lunches first:

I always plan our dinners first, then I usually like to make enough dinner each night to have leftovers for the next day for lunch.  I won’t eat leftovers for more than one day, so I don’t like to make huge meals and eat them all week – some people do, though!

Our dinners are usually pretty simple – a protein and a veggie.  Because it’s finally summer, we are using our grill more and more!  So this week, dinners look like this:

Sunday - Bunless turkey burgers on the grill with quinoa salad (recipe to come soon!)
Monday - Cedar plank salmon with veggies on the grill
Tuesday - Bunless turkey burgers with grilled asparagus
Wednesday - Baked shrimp and tomatoes with feta cheese
Thursday - Steak on the grill and salad with homemade balsamic dressing
Friday - TREAT MEAL!!
Saturday - Will probably eat dinner out

Trever and I avoid eating starches with our dinner, so I’ll make a big batch of something like quinoa or brown rice and eat that with my lunches during the week.

3.  Next, plan your breakfasts:

Right now, I’m eating the same breakfast over and over:  egg whites with broccoli and steelcut oatmeal with berries.  I’m sure I’ll get sick of it eventually, but it makes my breakfast meal planning pretty easy :)  When I’m not stuck in the pattern of eating the same thing every day, I like to plan a few breakfast meals and rotate them.  For example, I might have the following for breakfast on any given day:

- Egg whites scrambled with spinach and feta cheese and a slice of Ezekiel toast
- Steelcut oatmeal with a 1/2 scoop of protein powder mixed in and some mixed berries
- A whole wheat wrap with a banana, almond butter, and sprinkled with cinnamon
- A protein smoothie made with a 1/2 of a frozen banana, frozen berries, unsweetened almond milk, protein powder, and ground flax seeds

4.  Plan your snacks:

I eat 5 – 6 small meals per day.  I am currently using Isagenix products as a supplement for my 2nd and 4th meal, so I simply have an Isagenix shake for each of those meals.  Here are some other ideas for snacks:

- An apple and a handful of raw almonds
- Cucumber and tomato salad drizzled with balsamic and olive oil
- Steamed edamame sprinkled with salt
- Greek yogurt with mixed berries and a small handful of granola
- A couple of slices of low-sodium turkey and a piece of string cheese rolled up together
- Your favorite raw veggies dipped in hummus

At night, if I’m still hungry after dinner, I’ll have a little bit of cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon and Truvia or with a spoonful of sugar-free jam.  Cottage cheese contains casein, a slow-digesting protein, which helps with growing muscles while you sleep ;)  This is an optional meal that I only have if I am still hungry.

5.  Plan your treats!

This is so important!  My goal is to eat “clean” about 90% of the time.  When you do the math, that means that out of all the meals I have in a week, 3 of them can be “treats.”  This gives so much flexibility!

If I know I have something planned during the week – like dinner with a girlfriend, or a happy hour at work – I’ll plan my meals to include those as my “treat meals.”  I don’t go super crazy with treat meals, but I’ll eat what I want and have a glass or two of wine and not make a big deal about it!

6.  Stick to your plan!

Make up your grocery list according to what’s on your meal plan for the week, and only buy what’s on the list.  This will keep you from buying food that may go to waste or buying a bunch of junk that you don’t want in your kitchen anyway ;)

And try to stick to your meal plan during the week – but have flexibility as well!  If your plans change and you have an unplanned meal or if you slip up and eat an unplanned treat meal, it’s ok…no biggie!  Just get back on your plan and move on!

 

I hope this post has been helpful!  Thank you so much for your questions, comments, and input on the types of things you’d like to see on this blog – keep the feedback coming!!  xoxo

My Fantasy Valentine’s Day Menu

I love to cook.  But since I started training for my competition, my meals have certainly not been very exciting (hello chicken and brown rice!), and my “treat meals” have been mostly enjoyed out at restaurants.

What’s even sadder is that T got me a gorgeous KitchenAid mixer for Christmas, which I had been lusting after forever, and I haven’t even used it yet!

Hey, beautiful. I owe you a date :)

So is it crazy that I’ve been fantasizing about cooking up a big delicious meal for me and my sweetheart?  If I had my ways, here’s what I’d be in the kitchen making on Valentine’s Day…

Valentine’s Day Menu for Two:

Appetizer:

Panko-Crusted Crab Cake Bites with Roasted Pepper-Chive Aioli

Salad:

Frisee and Green Apple Salad with Goat Cheese Toasts

Entree:

Mama’s Meatballs and Menden’s marinara sauce, served over fresh spaghetti noodles

Side:

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter

Dessert:

Naughty Ice Cream Sandwiches (omg!!)

Wine:

Layer Cake Malbec

Do you have any plans for Valentine’s Day?  Are you planning a night out with your sweetheart, a cozy night in, or a fun night out with the girls?

If you try any of these recipes, please let me know!