Naptime Entertaining: Recipes & Ideas for Family Entertaining
I have to admit, my favorite thing about Thanksgiving isn’t the turkey, it’s the side dishes. I love the potatoes, green beans, hot rolls, squash, and just about anything else that is surrounding the bird. During the fall I don’t find myself experimenting with turkey recipes, I focus on new side dish ideas. I am always looking for new favorites, ways to prepare a soup or vegetable I haven’t tried before. This year my latest favorite is this cheesy butternut squash casserole. It is salt, sweet, and hearty enough to be a side dish at one of the biggest meals of the year.
Today I am working with my friends at King Arthur Flour to do a fun fall baking giveaway and to talk quick breads. As you know, I am huge fan of quick breads. I love making them for school snack, serving them up on weekend mornings, and taking them to friends just because. What is not to love about a slice of warm bread with a cup of hot tea on a chilly fall day?!
There comes a time every fall when I feel I must, simply must, have a cheesy casserole for dinner. It kind of like the way I crave soup the second I see snow, and want fresh pesto the moment spring flowers bloom. This year I decided to take my craving to the meatless side and make a decadent mac and cheese ramped up with the addition of sweet caramelized onions and earthy mushrooms.
One of the ways I ease my way into cold weather cooking is with soup. It is nurturing and fortifying, without being super heavy like a winter lasagna. Over the weekend the temperature finally dropped a bit and I made this easy pot of soup for dinner. It was perfect for a cool fall night and fit the mood with all the delicious pumpkin flavor.
Last weekend I celebrated my birthday! This is my fourth time posting about my birthday on Naptime Chef. I know it puts me in the minority, but I actually enjoy celebrating my birthday. For real. I am not really all that concerned about my age, probably because I was always the youngest kid in my grade growing up. For me my birthday is the one day a year when I really let go and do whatever I want. This year I went to the gym (which I actually enjoy), had brunch with friends, spent the afternoon with my family, and my husband took me out to dinner. I also, of course, baked myself a cake.
One of my favorite parts about summer is casual family gatherings. I love the spontaneity of getting together with a family or two, having some casual eats and kicking back. Last week we did just that before we left for our annual summer trip to Cooperstown. My neighbors and I picked a back yard to meet in, loaded up the coolers with some drinks, and all contributed a few eats to the buffet. Since the gathering was mostly kids I decided to make an old summer favorite, a chocolate cookie icebox cake.
I look forward to the ice cream social in Cooperstown every year. It is put on by the Presbyterian church. After dinner everyone in town gathers on the church lawn to eat as much ice cream as possible for a mere two dollars per person. Since we couldn’t attend the social this year we decided recreate a fun social at home on the back porch. To change it up I ordered a few fun things from Wayfair and set-up a little ice cream sandwich bar for my family to enjoy.
It is not an exaggeration to say my daughter has been planning our father’s day celebration all spring. She came home with her father’s day gift completed and wrapped in mid-May, and ripped a picture of ice cream sandwiches from a magazine way back in April. These, she declared, are what we will make for dad on father’s day. For our meal on Sunday I am going to cook all the recipes from the father’s day chapter of my next book. For dessert, however, my daughter is planning to make some all out ice cream cookie sandwiches. She surmised that chocolate cookies are his favorite so that is what we baked to be the bookends of our ice cream. She chose mint chocolate chip ice cream for the filling. For the final touch she elected to coat them in an assortment of sprinkles and mini-chocolate chips. These, she explained, are what makes them pretty.
Spending the year as a flavor correspondent for Sargento has proved to be a delicious endeavor. Not only are my monthly food truck visits filled with new and exciting foods, I now love perusing the mushroom section of the grocery store. There are so many varieties! So many possibilities! For this months mushroom experiment I picked up some Hen of the Woods mushrooms and smokey fontina. (As I was making this dish I realized how much I like pairing mushroom with cheese!) I’ve already made mushroom dishes for lunch and dinner so this time I wanted to see what I could make for breakfast.
Last weekend my neighbor had us over and she served the kids dirt cake for dessert. I have to be honest, most of the adults had a few bites too. It was a hot mess of sugar, candy, and cookies and was totally, sinfully delicious. Needless to say, the children fell in love with the concept of dirt cake and my daughter begged me to make it for her class for my planned visit. How could I refuse? It is such a cool idea! Since a lot of the children in her class have food allergies I was challenged with the process of making the cake completely dairy and gluten-free.
I am sure my Mexican cousins are reading this menu and dying of laughter. They still remember the year I was ten and flew down to visit them and refused to eat any Mexican food. I kept asking for grilled cheese and quesadillas everywhere we went. How lame is that?! Now I wish I could travel the whole country of Mexico and try everything under the sun. I LOVE Mexican food. Too bad they all live in the US now, I really missed out. The good news, however, is that my Aunt has shared some of her authentic recipes with me and I plan to include them in the book. You will love them, I promise! But, until then, here are some of my favorite Mexican recipes from the blog.
I am all about spring vegetables these days. But, I am not going to lie here, this post is really about the ranch dressing. We all know that this is the time of year to start enjoying the fresh vegetables of the season. There is no question that asparagus should be gracing your table just about every night of the week while the fresh, local stuff is available. However, what you might not realize is that all of your veggies deserve to be paired, at least once or twice, with this simple shake-together salad dressing.