So full and grateful

Initially, I started this post to share my yearly menu and a cocktail recipe with all of you, but as we near Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think about how grateful I am this year. Mom is doing well with her cancer treatments, Izzy is thriving in school, work is busy and I have a roof over my head. I am healthy, happy and loved. There is just so much to celebrate and to be thankful for. I hope all of you are doing well, and are finding moments to be grateful!

This year, I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house, and while it’s just a small gathering, I’m going all out! I may be an overachiever, and diet be damned, it’s going to be good. Here’s the line up and a couple recipes for you as well, should you need ideas!

Thanksgiving 2018 Menu:


Wild mushroom, leek and ham quiche
Coffee and a lot of it to get me through this cooking

The Main Event:

A 22 lb turkey – I’ll be slathering a butter/dried wild mushroom mixture all over this beast, as well as under the skin directly on the meat
Chanterelle mushroom dressing
Candied yams – none of that canned stuff, oh no – actual yams, coated in butter and brown sugar
Green beans with bacon
Mashed potatoes
This amazing cranberry sauce, which combines fruit and booze – you can’t go wrong.
Deviled eggs
All coated in a gravy made from those delicious turkey drippings.


Golden Delicious heirloom pumpkin pie
Irish apple tart

On Tap:

Ledger David’s Savignon Blanc
Wind Gap’s old vine Grenache
Sidonio D Sousa’s Espumante Brut Nature Special Cuvee, because you always need something bubbly
And lastly, my new favorite, what we’re calling The Fall Fling – read on for the recipe!

The Fall Fling
1/2 ounce of St Elizabeth Allspice Dram (or other allspice liquor)
1/2-1 ounce of bourbon
1 cup apple cider
1 squeeze of lemon

Combine all ingredients, shake and pour through a strainer, easy right? I garnished mine with cherries that have been soaking in bourbon (which are technically for Christmas, but REALLY freaking good), but you can pick any garnish you want.


Mmmm…..This holiday is looking to be delicious! What are you all cooking and eating this year and what are you most grateful for?

All my best to you and yours,



To the pumpkin patch!

It’s fall again here and I couldn’t be happier! This is one of my favorite seasons and with it comes changing leaves, cool weather, cozy fires and my very favorite, trips to the pumpkin patch. Each year we drive down to Carpinito’s to play in the hay mazes, throw corn and play with the animals. Izzy leaves tired and happy and I get to take pictures and pick up pumpkins. I love supporting local businesses and farmers, too, so it’s usually a win-win and this year was no different! I’m convinced that these traditions are my favorite part of parenting; I love watching her explore and play.

We ran from one animal pen to the next, squeals of happiness coming from all of us (ok, mostly me). We giggled at the frizzle chickens, cooed over the week-old piglets, and fed the goats. When the skies darkened and hard rains arrived,  we ran into the barn to play in corn and hay; the screams of happy kids filling the air. An hour later, the rain had been replaced by sunny skies allowing us to make our way back outside to do rubber duck races and rope cows. We sipped lemonade, and ate chili and talked about how great all of the animals were.

We made our way past the corn stalks into the muddy fields on the hunt for the perfect pumpkins. Green ones, orange ones, speckled ones were all inspected by my tiny pumpkin hunter until we found 5 that met her expectations. More pictures were taken as we headed back to the car, holding hands and excitedly talking about which ones we’d carve first.

My sweet girl. I wish every day could bring as much magic as my time with her this weekend. These are the days that make my heart happy.

goose girl and goat girl and goat goat corn pig pigs piglet unicorn and happy girl little girl and unicorn water pie pumpkins happy girl little girl shoes pumpkin family in pumpkin patch girl in pumpkin patch girl with pumpkinFather and daughterunicorn and pumkins

Giving Thanks


The holidays have officially kicked off and I’m considering breaking out the maternity pants like Joey on friends.  We’re gathered with family, the buzz of stories and laughter with the recordings of “Alice’s Restaurant” playing in the background. Dinner is cooking, and the house smells amazing. I can’t wait to eat everything. This year, I am grateful for my health, a good job, wonderful friends and family. Things are so good, and days like this where we talk about all that we’re grateful for remind me of how far I’ve come and how fortunate I am.

This year, we went a little crazy on the menu for Thanksgiving, and I can’t wait to eat it all and snack on the leftovers!  So what’s on tap for today?

Goat cheese, bacon, and leek tart with chanterelle mushrooms
Mango-orange mimosas


Deviled eggs-regular and habenero
Caprese Skewers
Cranberry Wine

First Course:
Mixed green salad with candied walnuts, pomegranates, and a raspberry walnut vinaigrette.
Beets with goat cheese crumbles and pistachios

Main Course:
Deboned, honey brined turkey
Rotisserie roasted pork shoulder

Mashed potatoes
Pear, cranberry, and port conserva
“Green Slime”-pistachio pudding, cool whip and marshmallows
Pineapple coconut salad
Roasted squash medley with port poached cherries, and almonds
Chorizo spinach stuffing (gluten free)
Turkey stock gravy
Wheat bread with orange cranberry pecan butter

Prosecco, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, more cranberry wine


Gluten free vegan cashew and date cheesecake
Cranberry walnut tart
Vanilla bean ice cream
Sandeman’s Port


There you have it!  I’m so excited to dig in and eat.  While it’s a lot of food for 8 people, we’ll all leave with a ton of leftovers. Full bellies and happy hearts, and isn’t that a great way to spend the day?

How are you spending the holiday and how do you give thanks?

Yours in food and happiness,


Blue Cheese Butternut Squash Soup with Chicken and Mushrooms

soup ingredientsFall hit here pretty quickly in Seattle; cool winds replacing the abnormally high summer temperatures. The leaves are changing and starting to fall and this week promises rain. I’ve been scurrying around the gardens, picking  the last of my tomatoes, hoping that whatever is still green has time to ripen. The air is crisp and the sun is setting earlier and earlier, which means it’s time for soup. Enter: my Blue Cheese Butternut Squash Soup with Chicken!

This recipe is flavorful, easy to make, and while it tastes rich, is surprisingly low in calories. You can add more ingredients to make it more hearty, but it’s perfect in its’ simplicity. I usually make a double batch, freezing half, to enjoy late into the winter when I am too tired to make a batch of soup. Roasting the vegetables in advance brings depth of flavor to the soup, but isn’t necessary if you’re in a rush for a bowl of warm, creamy comfort.

Let’s start by gathering our ingredients:

4-5 lbs of butternut squash, cut in half with seeds removed, and roasted (see prep notes)
2 lbs chicken thighs (breasts, if you’re wanting less fat/calories), cut into bite size pieces
1 cup white wine
64 ounces chicken stock
1 lb mushrooms
1 green apple, diced
3 medium yellow onions, diced and roasted (see prep notes)
1/2 head of garlic, peeled and roasted (see prep notes)
1-2 sprigs of rosemary
1 large bay leaf
1/2 lb of bacon, chopped, drippings reserved (substitute 2 Tbspn olive oil if you do not wish to use bacon)
Salt and pepper to taste (about a teaspoon each)
Low fat sour cream, for garnish
3-4 ounces blue cheese, sprinkled on top
Optional: 1/2 lb chopped kale for more heft and nutrients

Roasting makes everything better-the flavors become more pronounced and it brings out a richness to the squash you wouldn’t get otherwise. To do this, coat a cookie sheet with olive oil and lay out your squash, roasting at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. While that cools, roast your onion and garlic for 10 mins at 350 degrees, or until  they start to turn golden. Set aside.

In a heavy bottomed pot, fry the bacon until crispy, removing from the oil when done. Add your chicken pieces, and cook until browned. You can avoid using bacon and instead brown your chicken in 2 Tbsp olive oil if you wish (I love bacon, but this does add fat, sodium and calories to the dish). Pull out your chicken and set aside with the bacon.

See all those delicious bits on the bottom of your pan? You want those. All of those tasty bacon-chicken bits add flavor! Add 1 cup of white wine and scrape the bottom of the pot-the finished soup (and your belly) will thank you for deglazing everything!

Add your roasted squash to the deglazed pot by scooping the meat of the squash out of the skin. Add your onion, garlic, apple, salt, pepper and stock to the pot and let simmer for 20 minutes until  everything starts to fall apart, stirring occasionally. At this point, you have a choice-you can use an immersion blender to make everything creamy and smooth, or leave it as is for a soup with a little more texture-I prefer to blend the base, personally.  If you do opt to blend, pull out the rosemary and bay leaf.

If you’re using kale, now’s the time to add it, cooking for 15 minutes. If not, move to the next step.

Add your chicken, mushrooms and your bacon and continue to simmer for additional 20 minutes, or until your chicken is cooked through (no longer pink, registering 165 degrees, if you want to get technical).

Ladle into a deep bowl, adding blue cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!

That’s it!  This soup will taste like you spent hours making it, and will fill that craving for a warm delicious soup to warm you up as the weather changes. What could be better?

Some people do not like blue cheese and I get it!  It can be strong and for some, overpowering. If you fall into this camp, substitute Parmesan, adding the rind in when you’re cooking your kale and chicken and pulling out when you’re done cooking. Top with grated Parmesan at the end.

I want to thank Foster Farms for funding this post. Their Simply Raised chicken are raised without antibiotics, hormones, or steroids, which is important to my family. Additionally, they are American Humane Certified and local to WA, OR, and CA, so there’s less impact on the environment!  Foster Farms also has organic options, which are available at most larger grocers and Costco (again, who doesn’t love Costco?!). For more information on Foster Farms, their products or their practices, check them out here. Again, this post is sponsored by Foster Farms®, the opinions expressed are my own.

Yours in delicious fall flavors,


Making the most of local

I love making the most of local foods, idea of knowing my farmer, and exactly where and how my food is raised, and the idea of using all parts of an animal any time I can makes me happy. I feel good knowing that the meat I am eating was well cared for, loved and had the chance to roam. Guys, let me show you something.

okanoganKatahdin lamb

This is Island Mountain Farm, in the Okanogan Highlands, where I get my lamb. Lovely right? Those little guys are Katahdin lamb, a breed raised for excellent meat quality. They are happily raised and finished on dryland pasture and happy animals, raised well in open areas, means healthy and good meat. They are just one of the farmers you can connect with at Barn2Door.  Remember my Salmon Post? Local food delivered straight to you is amazing! Barn2Door is a marketplace where you can buy sustainably grown meat, fish, fruits, vegetables & items like lamb and even real maple syrup right from producers and growers. Farmers, fishers, ranchers and gardeners have their own store – like Etsy for farms –  where they showcase the food they have for sale, and manage direct communications, sales and fulfillment (local delivery, national shipping or both!). Want more info?  Check them out, sign up for their newsletter, and keep reading for a discount code! Who doesn’t love that?!

Over the next few weeks, starting with this post, I have a goal: I’ll stick with my love of showing you how good it can be to know your food and where it comes from, but I want to help you feel comfortable with different types of meat and cuts of meat. Are you ready?

Years ago, families used more of the animal than we do now-if you were to ask your grandparents, or your great-grandparents, likely they would tell you about how they ate things like organ meat, things like liver, kidneys. They used these other parts of the animal because they knew how to cook it, it was good nourishment, and often, it was something that they raised themselves. I love the idea of getting back using as much of the animal as often as possible. It’s respectful of the animal, and can be lower in cost. If you looked in my freezer right now, you’d see a lot of random things-tripe, beef tongue, hearts, various kidneys, beef and chicken bones for stocks. All good, tasty and nourishing things, but not the standard foods you may be used to seeing. At first, I was nervous about cooking them. Would they be good? Are they hard to cook? Would my family and friends think I am crazy for serving them this stuff? So far, the odds have been in my favor. Like any food, how you cook it, and how you present it is key. Keeping things simple, with good ingredients is a great way to make food approachable.

My recipe for you all today is Seared Lamb Kidneys With Red Wine Glaze. It’s super easy from start to finish, and if you can cook bacon, you’ll be more than good on this!  I’ll start with the basics and add a couple quick twists.

Seared Lamb Kidneys With Red Wine Glaze
Serves: 6-8 as an appetizer, 4 as a hearty side
Time: 45 minutes


1 lb lamb kidneys
4 slices thick bacon
1/4 c red wine-I used a Sangiovese
1 cup stock – I used lamb stock
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt or more to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 of a small bulb of shallot, finely chopped


Island Mountain Farm Lamb Kidneys

  1. Trim any excess tissue or fat from around the kidneys, cut them in half and remove the tough, white core.
    kindeys with skinkidney core
  2. Chop them in small bite sized pieces and set your kidneys aside.
  3. Mince your garlic and finely chop your shallot, set both aside.
  4. Chop your bacon into bite sized bacon and add to a cool, deep pan-I like my 3 quart dutch oven for this. Fry your bacon until crisp and remove-placing it on a paper towel to drain.
    chopped bacon sauteed bacon
  5. Add your shallot and sweat in the bacon fat, until they just start to get translucent – about 1-2  minutes and then add your garlic until it starts to turn a light, light brown. You’re getting close!
  6. Add your lamb kidneys and let them cook. You want them to get a little seared, and a little more yummy about 2-3 minutes Don’t stir!
    cooking kidneys
  7. Add your salt and your pepper and flip your kidneys. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until there is very little red remaining. Pull out, keeping any liquid (if any) in your pan and place off to the side.
  8. Add your wine and scrape all of those tasty bits off of the bottom of the pan (this is called deglazing).
  9. Add your lamb stock and your reserved bacon.
  10. Let this reduce to about 1/3. If it doesn’t thicken up, pull out a few tablespoons of the liquid, mix in a spoon full of flour until incorporated and add this all to your sauce.
  11. Plate your kidneys and drizzle your sauce over it all!

That’s it! Serve as a side, or as an appetizer on toasted baguette.

Now for the twist!

Do everything above, but throw your kidneys in a food processor and blend up until smooth to make a dip. Add to crostini and drizzle your sauce over them. If you’re not quite ready to try kidneys, this recipe works really well with liver, too (same amounts as the above!).

SO easy, right?

Are you ready to get local food straight from the farmer? Head on over to Barn2Door, enter your zip code, find something amazing, and add in the code MAKEMENDGROW15 -at check out for $15 off a $50 purchase – good from now through November 6. Please check out Barn2Door on Facebook, and Island Mountain Farm’s Barn2Door site, their Website, and Facebook Page!

I’d love to hear from you on what you pick up and make!

Yours in whole foods,

Disclaimer: While I do love Island Mountain Farms and Barn2Door, this is a sponsored post. Photos of Okanogan and the Katahdin lamb courtesy of Island Mountain Farms, all other pictures are my own.

My fall wardrobe

I love, love, LOVE fall. I get excited every time the weather changes and the leaves start changes. I think about using the fire place and making coq au vin, and pumpkins and doing more crafts. I also love pulling out my fall clothes, including scarves. I dont normally post about clothes, but after playing on (another site you NEED to check out), I couldn’t help post what I want to wear this season. Enjoy a peek into my style, from what I can’t wait to wear to work, on the town and to go play in the leaves 🙂

My fall wardrobe

My fall wardrobe by rainaanderson