Long Island Mom

What I've learned about being a mom.

Butternut Squash Risotto

I’ve written before about risotto in Lemon Shrimp Risotto and Risotto Cakes – something my mom made really often in our house as teenagers because it was filling.  My brother could eat like you have never seen before so she was all about recipes she could scale larger.  Problem was, no matter how much risotto she made, Cam would finish it.  A bottomless pit for sure.

I decided to make it with butternut squash this time, as more of a fall-flavored dish and it came out great!  Risotto is one of those dishes that takes really well to leftover veggies and meats of all kinds, so when I didn’t know what to do with this butternut squash I had laying around (just made soup with it a little bit ago), risotto immediately came to my mind.

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This is not a recipe for a busy weeknight.  I made it Tuesday when I was off for Veteran’s Day and knew I had time to relax and make it.  I promise it is worth the time and is not difficult at all, just a little time consuming.  Contrary to what you might hear, you do NOT have to sit next to the stove and stir the entire time this is cooking.  By all means, walk away for a few minutes, just don’t let it burn!

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Butternut Squash Risotto

2 tbs olive oil + extra for roasting squash

1/2 large brown onion, chopped

1 small or 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch pieces

1 tablespoon fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups chicken stock

2 tbs butter

1/4 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

 

1. Roast butternut squash in a little olive oil and salt and pepper on a baking sheet at 350 for 15-20 mins.

2. Saute onion on medium/high heat in 2 tbs of olive oil and salt and pepper until soft, 4-5 mins.

3. Add cooked butternut squash and saute (smash if you desire a smoother consistency)

4. Add rice and cook, stirring, for another 2 mins.

5. Add wine and saute another 2 mins until pan is dry

6. Add 1 cup of chicken stock at a time and stir occasionally until the pan looks almost dry, then add the next cup.  Cook until rice is tender and cooked through. (15-20 mins)

7.  Turn off heat and add butter and parmesan, stir until melted together and serve warm.

 

We served this with grilled dry-rubbed spicy chicken (recipe for that up tomorrow) and roasted asparagus (another one I plan to post).  Hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

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Butternut Squash Soup

I’ve been dying to make this but I’m pretty picky about how I like my butternut squash soup.  I don’t like it too sweet, no curry flavor please, just straightforward, fall-flavored, squashy-goodness.  With heavy cream.   I mean come on, how good is heavy cream in a soup?

So I tinkered around with a few recipes I found online and kind of made my own up.  And I have to say, it came out pretty awesome.  I also have to say, that in an ironic turn of events, I ended up with soup in my hair and telling my husband ‘you were right.’  Which is not my favorite thing to do.

Two years ago Dave bought me an immersion blender as a stocking stuffer.  I love a good kitchen gadget, but I found this one unnecessary and returned it.  Tonight, while making this soup and blending up small batches of the hot liquid making sure to cover the blender with a towel, I had the ‘man I wish I would have kept that’ thought.  Then, after turning off the blender and carefully removing the top, it bubbled up and splattered directly into my hair.  Yes, Dave, you were right.  The soup is still worth it.

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Butternut Squash soup

1/2 stick of butter

1 tbs olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 apple, peeled and chopped

3 lbs of butternut squash (2 small or 1 large)

4 cups of chicken broth, veggie broth, water, or a mixture

lots of salt and pepper

3-4 sage leaves

1/3 cup heavy cream (optional, but is it really?)

parmesan rind (optional) *

 

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut squash in half and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 40-50 mins until tender.

2. Saute onion and apple in butter and salt and pepper on medium heat for 5 minutes until soft.

3. Once squash is cooked and cooled enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add to the apple and onion.  Add broth or water, sage leaves and parmesan rind* and simmer, breaking up the squash as it cooks and starts to dissolve into the soup, about 15 minutes.

4. Blend in small batches, or, if you’re smart, keep the immersion blender your husband gave you for Christmas and just whizz it up.  Turn off the heat and add the cream.  Enjoy!

* my mom has always talked about putting in the end of the parmesan cheese wedge leftover after you’ve grated all you can from it into soups and stews.  It melts right into it and gives it a cheesy background flavor that is unbelievable.  I’m hooked.

 

Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

 

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Sweet and Spicy Bacon Chicken Bites

Couldn’t resist this one when it came across my search for Football Food on Pinterest.  Sweet, spicy, bacon wrapped chicken bites.  They were incredibly easy to make and addictive-ly tasty.  This is going to be my go-to ‘what can I bring?’ dish from now on.

http://www.101cookingfortwo.com/sweet-and-spicy-chicken-bacon-wraps/

SWEET AND SPICY CHICKEN BACON WRAPS

PREP TIME
COOK TIME
TOTAL TIME
A great finger food for that “bring a dish” party. What could go wrong with bacon, sugar and spices? Nothing. Cubes of chicken wrapped with bacon and coated with brown sugar, chili powder and cumin. Baked until crispy. A skill level of 3/10 (easy). Plus it is easy to double or triple if needed.
Author: Dan Mikesell
Recipe type: Party
Cuisine: American
Serves: 15 servings
INGREDIENTS
  • about 1¼ pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1½ pounds bacon
  • ⅔ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 T chili powder
  • ½ t cumin
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 convection. In a large mixing bowl, combine ⅔ cup dark brown sugar, 2 T chili powder and ½ t cumin. Mix well.
  2. Clean and trim about 1¼ pounds of skinless boneless chicken breast. Cut into approx. 1 inch cubes.
  3. If using thick bacon, thin out with the back edge of a chef knife. Cut the bacon in half, roll around the chicken cubes and secure with a tooth pick. This is the point to cover and refrigerate for better timing.
  4. Prep baking sheet with aluminum foil a rack and spray with PAM.
  5. Roll the pieces in the brown sugar mixture. Be sure to pack some in the ends. Place on the rack.
  6. Bake until golden brown. About 35 minutes for me. Cover with foil on heavy dish to keep warm until served.

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Rigatoni with sausage and brussel sprouts

Is it Brussels Sprouts or Brussel Sprouts?

In any event, I never ate them growing up – and I was forced to eat a lot of things.  I think my mom had a mental block against them.  Well, now they’re everywhere.  The first time I had them I was at a BBQ place with my husband and some of his friends and his buddy Alex insisted I try a deep-fried brussel sprout.  It was amazing and from then on I was hooked.  I love them roasted in the oven with just a little olive oil and salt and pepper, and even more sauteed in a pan with bacon and finished with balsamic vinegar.  Trader Joe’s also sells this stuff called ‘Cruciferous Crunch’ that is a mix of broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and kale all shredded that is amazing roasted in the oven.

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Tonight, I felt like pasta, and brussel sprouts.  And sausage.

I’ve made a pretty common Italian dish with orecchiette, sausage and broccoli rabe that you can find in lots of great Italian restaurants in my area of Long Island.  I like broccoli rabe but it is very bitter and my husband isn’t the biggest fan.  So tonight, I subbed brussel sprouts for the broccoli rabe and rigatoni for the orecchiette.  It was so awesome and done in 30 minutes.  My kind of meal.

Sub any kind of pasta you like for the rigatoni.  (orecchiette, penne, etc)

Sub any kind of hearty green veg for the brussel sprouts.  (broccoli, broccoli rabe, etc)

Sub chicken sausage for the pork sausage if you’re trying to be more healthy.

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Rigatoni with Sausage and Brussel Sprouts

1/2 pound of rigatoni

1 bag or 1 stalk of Brussel Sprouts (about 1 lb)

1/2 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 pound italian sausage

1 cup white wine

1 cup vegetable or chicken broth

salt and pepper

red pepper flakes (optional)

1 tbs olive oil

shredded or grated parm cheese

 

1. Cook pasta according to directions

2. Crumble sausage and sauté in olive oil until browned (2-3 mins)

3. Add brussel sprouts, salt and pepper and brown (2-3 mins)

4. Add onion and garlic and sauté another 2 mins

5. Add white wine and chicken broth and simmer for 3-4 mins

6. Add red pepper flakes and combine with pasta

7. Top with shredded parm cheese and enjoy!

 

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Rainy Day Activities

Pinterest is good for so many things – recipes, outfits, home decor, and arts and crafts.  I am not a crafty mom and the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on art supplies and making a mess of my already condemnable house makes me kind of shudder, but looking at all of these Pinterest ideas makes me feel like the worst mom ever.  I am never going to do these things, which surely means I’m robbing my children of a fun childhood.  I actually pinned something called “100 activities for a rainy day with toddlers” like I was going to go out and buy a magnetized fishing pole so they could ‘fish’ in the bath.  Then, I pictured this activity in my head.  It ends in screaming over who splashed who, saving plastic fishies from the toilet, and a lot of cleanup of my bathroom.

So, here are my realistic ‘rainy day activities for kids’

1. Play doctor

Sofia has a Doc McStuffins doctor kit and loves to pretend she’s a doctor fixing her stuffed animals.  If I lay down on the floor and pretend to be her patient, I’m guaranteed a solid half hour of doing absolutely nothing.

2. Knock down mommy

I make a pile out of pillows, sit in front of it, and tell the kids to go in the other room and run at me to knock me down.  They can do this for hours, and bonus – it completely wears them out.

3. Make a rocket ship

We get pretty regular shipments of diapers and other home staples from either diapers.com or amazon.com – so we’re in no short supply of large boxes.  Today I sat both of them in the box with an assortment of crayons, stickers and markers and told them to make a rocket ship.  They have been coloring all afternoon.

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4. On your marks…

Just saying ‘On your marks, get set, go!’ to my 2 year old gets him running around the house as fast as he can.  I don’t know why.  He’ll do it 30 times before it gets old.

5. Hide and seek

You don’t have to find them.  You just have to say ‘wow what a great hiding spot! I can’t believe I can’t find you!’ in a loud voice every few minutes.

6. Autobahn

Again, lay on the floor, give the kids some cars and tell them you’re the road and the cars have to drive around you.  They found this hilarious today.

 

If you have any other realistic activities that don’t take a trip to Michaels or hours of cleanup, please pass them along.  And pray for sunshine!

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Pumpkin Everything

It’s Fall, it’s cool out, and pumpkin is everywhere.  I used to love the arrival of the pumpkin spiced latte and pumpkin muffins, but now I think we’ve gone a little overboard.  Trader Joe’s is pumpkin central right now with everything from the standard canned pumpkin for pies to pumpkin flavored pop tarts.

I make Pumpkin Spiced Lattes at home, and it’s actually pretty simple without all of the chemicals in the Starbucks variety.  I keep a small container of pumpkin pie spice by my coffee maker (I actually have a Nespresso and it has changed my life) – and you can buy it pre-blended in the spice aisle of the supermarket, or make your own from :

4 tbs ground cinnamon

4 tsp ground nutmeg

4 tsp ground ginger

3 tsp ground allspice

 

Add this to your coffee along with your usual milk and sugar routine and it satisfies the PSL without the huge amount of calories and the chemicals.

 

Also, I’ve been looking for a way to add pumpkin to a recipe in a savory dish and found this from Skinnytaste (I know I’ve been posting a lot of her recipes but they’re just so good).  It’s a cheesy baked pumpkin pasta and it was absolutely perfect.  I subbed regular pasta for the whole wheat variety, parm for the pecorino and sage for the rosemary.  It’s quick and easy, cheesy and comforting.

 

http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/11/cheesy-baked-pumpkin-pasta.html

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So go ahead and overdose on pumpkin, but try to add these lower-calorie and natural options.  Enjoy Fall!

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

Now that Autumn is officially here, cooler weather and all, I am loving the Fall-inspired recipes I’m finding on Pinterest and Facebook.  I found a great recipe from local Oceanside, NY mom Gina Homolka on her website Skinnytaste for a Chicken Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash.  Easy, low in fat but high in flavor, and full of all of the Fall awesomeness I was looking for.

http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/11/farro-and-sausage-stuffed-roasted-acorn.html

 

I am not a mushroom fan, so I omitted those, and swapped the farro for couscous because it’s what I had in my cupboard.  I also topped it with parmesan cheese :)

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Super delicious, give it a try!

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The Best of Me

A new Nicholas Spark book-turned-movie sure to make you shed a few tears and believe that true romance does exist is coming to theaters.  This one stars James Marsden (remember how great he was in The Notebook and X-Men??) and Michelle Monaghan (of many movies but I always think of Mission Impossible) and looks like the perfect date-night or girls night out movie.

Here’s the plot synopsis :

“Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of the beloved friend.  Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.”

There will be a screening of The Best of Me in Deer Park this Thursday, October 2 at 7pm and I have 100 pairs of tickets – for free!!  Just go to http://www.relativityscreenings.com/LImom and remember to bring the tissues!!  See you there :)

 

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Big Apple Circus

The Big Apple Circus is coming back to it’s hometown of New York City at Lincoln Center starting October 17th!

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The circus was always a favorite of mine and my siblings, and is a fun-filled, family-centered night out I would love to pass on to my children.  Many of today’s circus events feature exotic animals, and although that sounds like fun, in theory, many times these animals are mistreated and even abused.  For this reason, we haven’t attended many of the circus events we have seen come to our area.  Big Apple Circus does not use exotic animals, in favor of domestic animals like dogs and horses.  These animals are very well taken care of, just as we take care of our domestic pets.  Trainers have years of experience with these animals and even sleep in close proximity to the animals they work with while they’re on tour.  Big Apple Circus treats their animals with love and respect, and that’s something that I know is so important to moms and dads everywhere.

Our family will be attending the Big Apple Circus on November 2nd and the kids can’t wait.  As a gift to our blog readers, Big Apple Circus is offering $25 off of EVERY TICKET, not just the total purchase price, for readers of Long Island Mom.  At checkout, use the promo code BIGAPPLE (*Limited availability. Offer good on select seats and shows. Other conditions apply. Children under 3 are free when on the lap of a paid adult, one child per lap.)

I hope you’ll give Big Apple Circus a try – it’s such a fun experience for the whole family and one you can feel good about taking the kids to!

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Feeling Safe

I got into a car accident today – my first real accident that wasn’t a fender bender in a parking lot or something equally minor.  It was terrifying, mostly because my 3 year old was with me.  We were on our way to Toys R Us to pick up birthday gifts for my niece and my best friend’s daughter, and got hit by a young guy who blew through a red light.  The car spun several times before it came to a stop and I just froze there for a few seconds before springing into action and getting my daughter out of the car.  It was smoking, fluid leaking out all over the road, and I ran to the street corner to get out of the way.  The guy was texting, he later admitted to the cops, and this wasn’t his first accident.  In fact, he had just gotten his car back from his last incident.

We are fine, physically.  Sofia, who is a complainer by nature, hasn’t said a word of anything hurting.  I feel sore all over but I think I tensed up so hard before he hit us that I might be sore for a few days.  Does this mean I don’t need to work out this week?? All kidding aside, we are incredibly lucky that nobody was hurt.  Within seconds, 2 women and an elderly man were next to me, asking how we were doing and if they could do anything.  They waited until the cops came, gave statements, asked again if they could get anything for us, and then left.  I never asked their names and don’t think I even said thank you.  They were patient, kind, and protective, and they didn’t even know us.  My faith in humanity is restored.  In New York, on a busy Saturday, these people took the time out to help a shaken, shocked mom and her frightened daughter.  One of the guys that works at Joe’s Crab Shack even came out and offered to get us something to eat or drink and stayed for a few minutes until he saw everything was ok.

And now, I’m left with a feeling of ‘What if…’

I’m not loving this side effect.  I’m reminded how quickly things can go so so badly.  We’re ok, we got very lucky, and all I can think about is how badly this could have gone.  My son was home with daddy, sleeping, and his car seat is on the passenger side, where we got hit.  I was in an SUV, and he was in a compact car.  When we spun out, we didn’t hit anything, or anyone, else.  Any number of small changes in this series of events and we could have been really hurt.  Sofia has been clingy and emotional all afternoon and evening, and to be honest, so have I.  I keep hugging them so tight and kissing their faces, trying not to cry.  At any moment, car accident or no car accident, these precious babies could be taken away from me, a thought I never want to have, and yet right now, it’s the only thought I have.

So, sometimes it takes a scare to remind you of what’s really important.  And they’re in my lap right now.

 

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