Healthy Bolognase

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! We had a busy one, filled with a beautiful birthday party on Saturday morning at a nearby park (C was in heaven with his slice of birthday cake, hamburger, ice cream cone, and splash – soak! – in a nearby fountain), and then Saturday afternoon the hubby and I packed our bags and headed out for a little staycation. As our first night away from our darling boys, we missed them dearly however it was such a treat to have some time just the two of us, feel pampered and stay in one of our favorite hotels. And to sleep in past 7am – oh my goodness, we forgot what that felt like! Did I also mention the incredible meals? Dinner included maple and black peppercorn crusted buffalo tenderloin with creamy jalapeño cheddar grits, wilted greens and a butternut squash tamale – yum, yum, yum!

Back to the boys – I knew C especially would be missing us around dinnertime, and so we thought making his favorite dish would help. We surprised him with spaghetti Bolognese, and the child couldn’t have been happier. I consumed copious amounts of this comforting and classic Italian dish during my two pregnancies, and so perhaps that’s why the boys adore it so. They both had seconds on Saturday night, and C even ate the remainder for lunch on Sunday.

I’m planning on making it again this week for dinner, however I’m going to tweak the sauce slightly. While the traditional version calls for milk or cream to be added to the sauce, this recipe that I’m sharing today replaces the dairy with pine nuts making it a bit healthier. Plus, it’s filled with carrots and celery, so its perfect for those kiddos who shy away from veggies. Given that I try to steer clear of dairy, this recipe is a great alternative and one that I can eat, guilt-free. Paired with a crisp green salad and crusty baguette, it’s the perfect meal, and I hope you will give it a try too!

 


Healthy Bolognese Sauce 

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

4 carrots, chopped

1 can of crushed  tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 tablespoon oregano

1 pound cooked ground beef 

 

Pour the oil into a dutch oven over medium heat, and add the onions, celery and carrots. Sauté the vegetables until they are soft, and the onion is translucent. Add the apple cider vinegar and tomatoes. Cook the sauce for 10-15 minutes (stir constantly). Next, add the salt and fennel seeds, and stir the sauce until well combined. Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor, add the pine nuts, and blend until smooth. Transfer the sauce back to the dutch oven, and add the oregano and cooked ground beef. Warm the sauce over low heat, and serve with your favorite pasta. 

 

Foolproof Summer Dinner Party Menu

We hosted friends a few weeks ago for dinner, and had such a wonderful time. The littles ones splashed in the pool, the husbands made crisp greyhound cocktails, and we all enjoyed a fabulous dinner, including a special kid-friendly dessert: make-your-own ice cream sundae bar (keep an eye out for a future post on this beloved dessert). Confession #1: the adults might have loved the sundaes just as much as the toddlers! Confession #2: We might have made French fries for the kids and ended up loving those too!  It truly was a great night with great friends.

So what is the recipe for such a successful evening? Of course you want to put on your hostessing hat (find my dinner party checklist here!) and have your house at its best, a beautifully set table, fresh flowers, candles lit and music playing etc., however I think the two most important factors are excellent food and a relaxed host. Sometimes the latter can be the hardest part, especially when entertaining with spirited children!  Yet at the end of it all, your guests likely won’t recall if you had hydrangeas or peonies, or the color of the linens, but they will remember the outstanding meal you served, and how much fun they had.

As for the relaxed host, try to be as organized as your can and plan ahead, as this will alleviate last-minute stress. Map out your menu, florals, table setting, etc. a couple of weeks ahead. If you prefer to outsource, be sure to line up your caterer and floral arrangements well in advance of your party. Also, make a day-of to-do list so you be sure to remember all of the final details!

Now for the food! When entertaining, I gravitate towards simple yet delicious food that is in season, relatively easy to prepare and has fantastic presentation – think an array of vibrant colors, flavors and textures. In the summer, our go to is the grill and typically a yummy fruit dessert. This menu that I have prepared for you is tried and true (and what we served our friends a few weeks ago!), and one I think you will love. I’ve also listed few tips to keep in mind when you prepare this menu for your family or friends. Enjoy!

 

Menu

Guacamole & corn chips 

Grilled hamburgers 

Confetti corn

Green salad 

Strawberry & Rhubarb Crisp

 

Menu Tips:

  • Greet guests with guacamole and cocktails to set the tone for the night. If you don’t have time to make the guacamole, Whole Foods and other speciality markets often make their own guacamole and it’s a great option.
  • Consider serving your hamburgers on brioche buns (so indulgent!), and have a platter filled with colorful fixings such as green leaf lettuce or arugula, sliced red and yellow tomatoes, purple onions, etc. Be sure to also offer cheese (cheddar or Gruyère) on the hamburgers.
  • If you or your guests don’t eat red meat, you could easily make turkey burgers or even veggie burgers.
  • Dress your salad with a simple balsamic or lemon vinaigrette.
  • Serve the crisp warm with ice cream.

White Peach Raspberry Crisp

 

Hi dear readers! I hope everyone is having a great week. I’ve been trying more and more to enjoy the slower pace of summer,  which can be tough for me, since I tend to thrive on multitasking and moving pretty quickly! Having children has taught me how important it is to live in the moment, and savor each day, especially during the summertime when we have an easy breezy schedule. Our days are filled with swimming at the pool, picnics, and playdates, as well as trips to the library, art projects (cue the water colors and sidewalk chalk!) and baking at home.

One of my favorite activities to do with C  is bake, as he loves to help me in the kitchen, especially when it comes to whipping up a dessert. While he’s partial to oatmeal chocolate chip cookies or cupcakes, we also love to bake crisps and cobblers during the warmer months. A golden brown crust filled with fresh blackberries, rhubarb, or peaches is truly the sweetest part of summer. Not to mention strawberry shortcake – talk about a summer indulgence!

Today I want to share our recipe for white peach and raspberry crisp. Hot and bubbling out of the oven, the sweet peaches mixed with the tart raspberries makes for an incredible combination, and paired with a scoop of cold and creamy vanilla (or dairy free vanilla!) ice cream, it’s as special for a weeknight treat as it is for dinner with friends. And so here is the recipe, and wishing you a great rest of the week!

 

White Peach and Raspberry Crisp

10 white peaches

1 pint of raspberries (or frozen)

1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the inside of a 10 x 15 x 2 1/2-inch oval baking dish or you can use individual ramekins. 

Slice the peaches into wedges and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the orange zest, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour, and toss until the fruit is completely coated. Next, gently incorporate the raspberries. Pour the peaches and raspberries into the baking dish.

Combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 cup of quick cooking oats, a generous pinch of salt, and 1 stick of cold, cubed butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low until the topping is a crumbly consistency. Sprinkle the mixture evenly on top of the peaches and raspberries, and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is browned and the fruit juices are bubbling. Serve with vanilla ice cream and enjoy!