Andrew’s Hot Cocoa




Many nights, after the kids are tucked away in bed, you’ll hear this conversation in our home:

Me: Let us sit (collapse) on the couch and watch (Downton Abby/30 Rock/ThatNetflixMovie)! And (added smile and knowing look) won’t you pretty please make your special hot cocoa that I love so much?

Husband: But of course my love.

(isn’t he great?)

Cooks Illustrated Hot Cocoa

Serves 4 in small mugs

Why This Recipe Works
Our ideal hot cocoa recipe would give us serious chocolate flavor and a rich, satisfying consistency. We found that 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder sweetened with 1 tablespoon of sugar added enough chocolate flavor to our hot cocoa recipe without being overpowering. Many recipes recommend mixing cocoa powder and sugar with a little water before adding the milk, and we found this to be worthwhile. Water has the effect of releasing the cocoa powder’s fruit, chocolate, and coffee flavor nuances. We also discovered that heating the mixture of cocoa powder, sugar, and water for two minutes before adding milk further deepens the flavor.

If you want to increase or decrease this recipe for hot cocoa, the key ratio to remember is one and one-half tablespoons of cocoa and one heaping tablespoon of sugar per cup of liquid. If you have whole milk on hand rather than low-fat, go ahead and use it, omitting the half-and-half.


6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder, measured by dip-and-sweep

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

Pinch table salt

1cup water

3 cups low-fat milk (1 or 2 percent)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup half-and-half


1. In heavy 2-quart saucepan, whisk together cocoa, sugar, salt, and water over low heat until smooth. Simmer, whisking continuously, for 2 minutes, making sure whisk gets into the edges of pan.

2. Add milk, increase heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally with whisk, until steam rises from surface and tiny bubbles form around edge, 12 to 15 minutes. Do not boil.

3. Add vanilla and half-and-half. For foamy cocoa, beat hot cocoa with hand mixer or transfer to blender and blend until foamy. Divide between four mugs, top with whipped cream or marshmallows if desired, and serve immediately.

Making Your Own Pumpkin Puree

Making your own puree is simple! Everything just tastes so much fresher! Plus it’s much less expensive than buying the canned stuff, and better for you too!

Quarter the pumpkin, take out seeds, rub inside with a little olive oil, put flesh side down on a baking pan. Pour about an inch of water in pan and cook for 30 minutes on 400. It’s ready when the flesh is fork tender! Scoop out the flesh from the skin, it falls off pretty easily and purée flesh in a blender or food processor.

Chicken Pad Thai

I’d never thought to make pad thai before … until I stumbled on this great site Flax+Honey – their write up of pad thai sounded amazing! And sure enough, it was delicious. I love the simplified recipes on Flax+Honey, showing you how to substitute conventional foods for nonGMO options and whole food versions. Even the boys enjoyed this meal!

  • 8 oz rice noodles (dry, wide cut, and flat). UPDATED: Evan just found these brown rice noodles at Whole Foods. So now you can use a whole grain, which is better…
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup (or 100% organic brown sugar, so it is GMO free)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (about one large lime, freshly juiced)
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons 100% organic soy sauce, wheat free. Again, make SURE it is organic to avoid those nasty GMO’s, and make sure it is wheat free if you want this dish to be gluten-free. I used this.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste. Original recipe called for Sriracha. Don’t use that. It has 8 ingredients, 2 of which will most definitely be genetically engineered, and 2 of which are preservatives, which you don’t need to consume when you can just use red pepper flakes instead.
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided in half
  • 2 organic chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 5 green onions, chopped (separate chopped whites from chopped greens)
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (I used cheese grater)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 4 lime wedges, for garnish
  • UPDATED: Go ahead and toss in a handful of bean sprouts, too. I forgot all about em when I made this, but Evan’s husband Justin has informed me they are a necessary component to Pad Thai.
1. Boil rice noodles according to package instructions. I brought water to a boil in large pan, turned heat off, added noodles, and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain water, and set noodles aside.
2. While noodles are soaking, add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to non-stick pan and add chicken. I chopped up the chicken into pretty small little bites before cooking. I think you should do the same.
3. Once chicken is cooked, drain off any liquid and add peanut butter. Stir until chicken is coated, set aside.
4. In your skillet, add the other tablespoon of coconut oil along with the white part of the chopped onions and the garlic. Sautee until golden brown, and fragrant.
5. Add the eggs and scramble over medium heat until almost cooked. Almost. Not all the way. Take off the heat and set on a plate for a few minutes.
6. Mix together syrup (or organic brown sugar), soy sauce, lime juice, and crushed red pepper flakes in a small bowl and set aside.
7. Back to the skillet. Add noodles, the sauce you just mixed, the chopped green part of the onions, carrots, and chicken. Stir until combined, over medium heat, until noodles are soft.
8. Grab your plate with the almost scrambled eggs. Dump into the noodles, and stir to combine.
9. Cook for another minute or so, until eggs are fully cooked.
10. Plate. Add cilantro, peanuts, and a lime wedge to each serving. This recipe was enough for me and my man to consume heaping amounts, the kids each took a few bites, and there is a little bit leftover for lunch. So I guess I would say it serves 4. Or maybe 3 if you are crazy hungry.
11. See?! Easy! And might I suggest chopping, mixing, and cooking before dinner time? That is what I did and it made the actual cooking part crazy fast and easy. I chopped veggies, mixed sauce, beat eggs, and cooked chicken while my children were napping – so come dinner time, I just had to soak noodles and throw stuff in skillet.

Burrito Pie



Yum! Another favorite from Bites, this burrito pie was delicious! I didn’t have Rotel so I used a regular can of diced tomatoes, which made it a little less spicy. Loved the combination of refried beans and ground beef! Also, I used homemade enchilada sauce, which I highly recommend! I’m so glad I made a huge batch before Alice was born and froze it.

1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
small can black olives, sliced
1/2 (4 ounce) can diced green chili peppers
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers (Rotel)
1 can enchilada sauce
1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
6 (8 inch) flour tortillas
10 ounces shredded Colby cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the ground beef for 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, and saute for 5 more minutes. Drain any excess fat, if desired. Mix in the olives, green chile peppers, tomatoes with green chile peppers, enchilada sauce and refried beans. Stir mixture thoroughly, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Spread a thin layer of the meat mixture in the bottom of a 4 quart casserole dish. Cover with a layer of tortillas followed by more meat mixture, then a layer of cheese. Repeat tortilla, meat, cheese pattern until all the tortillas are used, topping off with a layer of meat mixture and cheese.
  4. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.

Chicken Pot Pie

Andrew wasn’t going to be home for dinner tonight, so normally I would make scrambled eggs or chicken nuggets for the boys and me. But, I had already eaten Chucky Cheese pizza for dinner last night, so my body was craving something decent and "real" for dinner. I was in luck! We had just the right leftover things in the fridge to put this chicken pot pie together … and it was really good. Henry even said it was the "best dinner I have ever seen!". So there ya go folks – the best dinner you will ever see. 🙂

I didn’t snag a picture, but you can see the lovely photos Pioneer Woman took instead!

Leftover Turkey (chicken) Pot Pie

1 pie crust (1/2 of Perfect Pie Crust recipe)
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced celery
2 cups leftover turkey, light and dark, diced or shredded (or both!) *I used 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1/4 cup flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
splash of white wine (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
Frozen peas (optional)
Fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a skillet or dutch oven. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook until translucent (a couple of minutes.)
Add turkey and stir. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
Pour in chicken or turkey broth, stirring constantly. Splash in wine (you can leave this out if you’d like.) Pour in cream. (May add frozen peas at this point if you’d like.)
Bring to a slow boil and allow mixture to cook and thicken for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (do not underseason), and fresh or dried thyme to taste. Do one final taste at the end and add what it needs.
Pour mixture into a casserole dish or deep pie pan.
Roll out crust so that it’s about 1 inch larger than the pan you’re using.
Place the crust on top of the pot pie mixture, and press crust into the sides of the dish. Cut vents in the top of the crust.
Bake for 30 minutes or until very golden and bubbly.
Allow to cool for a little bit before serving.

Serve with a large spoon.

Pumpkin Graham Bread

We had some leftover graham flour in our cupboards – back from when Andrew made his own graham crackers (delicious!), so when I saw one of my favorite food blogs post this bread, I had to give it a try. Plus one look at Ashley’s beautiful photos of this treat, and you’ll be scouring your pantry for the ingredients too! I actually think I prefer this pumpkin bread to my previous one, primarily because it has a heartier texture and flavor. The chocolate chip pumpkin bread is awesome too, but with all the white flour it feels a bit processed at times. Either though are an excellent choice!

Pumpkin Graham Bread

Not Without Salt

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup Graham flour (whole wheat flour could be substituted)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch white pepper (optional)
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ cup olive oil (or other neutral oil)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup water
¼ cup seeds/nuts (I used sliced almonds and sunflower seeds but you could use anything really)

Preheat your oven to 350*F and butter a loaf pan.
In a bowl combine the flours, salt, brown sugar, baking soda and spices with a whisk.
In another bowl mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, honey and water. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir to combine.
Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan and top with seeds, nuts and a sprinkling of turbinado sugar (regular sugar is fine). Bake about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Turn out of the pan and let cool on a wire rack.

Katie’s Harvest Chili


Katie came to visit us this weekend! And she made us this delicious dinner! If I had a star rating system, I would give this 5 stars!! She served it over polenta, yum!

Harvest Chili
Better Homes and Gardens

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken-apple sausage links, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large red onions, chopped (3 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch chunks (about 6 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 15 – 16 ounce can pinto beans, rinsed, drained, and slightly mashed
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage or tiny sage leaves
  • Golden Delicious or other apple, sliced into rings


1.In a large Dutch oven heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage; cook for 5 to 6 minutes until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon.

2.In the same pan cook onions and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nearly tender. Add the squash; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper; cook for 1 minute. Return the sausage to pan. Add broth; bring to boiling, then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 8 minutes.

3.Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Cook apple slices in hot oil for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until light brown. Transfer apples along with beans to chili. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until apples are tender. Top servings of chili with sage and apple rings.


Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

Last year, on our trip to Boston, I stumbled across what might just as well be one of my greatest culinary experiences. One of my favorites – buffalo chicken – wrapped up in gooey delicious macaroni and cheese. When we came home, the first thing I did was search for a comprable recipe. I’m not sure if I should be happy that not only did I find this recipe, but also its just as good if not better than what we had at the Boston pub. Why not be happy? Why not shout with joy? Because this has GOT TO BE the worst food to put in your body. Cream. Three types of cheese. Butter. Butter. Cream. Noodles. Buffalo Sauce. Heart attack in the waiting. But oh so good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you hear your arteries clogging.

And here is a picture of Tim and I, right after eating our said first buffalo chicken mac n cheese in Boston last year.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound (16 oz) elbow macaroni
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup Buffalo wing sauce (preferably Frank’s. If you are worried about the heat factor add half the amount)
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 pound (16 oz) yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (found in the grocery store next to regular breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 more minute.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a separate saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard until smooth. Whisk in the half-and-half and add the remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.

Combine the chicken mixture, cooked pasta, and cheese sauce and toss to combine.

Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the panko, blue cheese and parsley. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.