Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

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Thanksgiving is almost here, and chances are that you are busy planning your menu for the big day. You probably have some “classic” dishes that make it to the table every year, but if you are looking to try something different, below are a few of my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving.

Before I get too caught-up in the food though, I want to stop and remember the other reason that we celebrate Thanksgiving, which is to give thanks. I am so thankful for my wonderful, hard-working husband and my two beautiful girls. They make me laugh every day and life would be awfully dull without them. I am constantly amazed by the amount of love and support that we get from our family and friends. It is such a wonderful feeling to have so many people caring for us; just thinking about them makes me feel like I’m getting an enormous group-hug. We’re also blessed to live in such a peaceful country community. I love that my girls get to experience nature every day and feel safe to explore and make new discoveries.

Fall Salad with Cranberries and Candied WalnutsFall Salad





Butternut Squash Soup
butternut squash soup






Roasted Brussels Sprouts
roast brussels sprouts






Buttery Dinner Rolls
dinner rolls






Apple Cobbler
Apple Cobbler






Pumpkin Bread
pumpkin bread






Almond Pear Pie (the photo doesn’t do it justice)
Almond Pear Pie






Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Nita’s Kitchen: Essential Cooking Tools

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Having the right kitchen tools makes creating blissful meals easy. I’ve tried many kitchen tools over the years, and quickly came to realize that the simplest tools are usually the best. Here are a few of the essential tools that I use every day to prepare my family meals.

First, you must have a good set of knives. I have owned a variety of chopping gadgets, but a good quality knife is more versatile, easier to clean, and often faster to use. I love my J.A. Henckles knives! They are heavy, comfortable to hold, and still look new after years of use. I recommend investing in a quality 8-inch chef’s knife, since this knife can meet most chopping needs. The other knives that I use the most are actually a set of J.A. Henckles steak knives that we bought at Target. These babies are super sharp and great for cutting fruit for my kids and also for cutting tomatoes (which would otherwise be smashed to death by my big chef’s knife).

Along with good knives, you need to have a good cutting board. I use a big bamboo cutting board to cut everything except raw meat, which I cut on a plastic cutting board. Pick a cutting board that is heavy, or has a non-slip bottom so it won’t slide around and interfere with your chopping, slicing, and dicing.

Next, I use a stainless steel spatula and tongs. The tongs are great for everything from stir-frys to deep frying. I have heavy duty stainless steel pots and pans, which can take a beating from these durable metal tools. I also have a couple of plastic spatulas that I use with our non-stick skillet (but I only use them when I have to).

The Pampered Chef kitchen shears must have been a gift, because my practical-side would never think of buying “scissors” specifically for the kitchen. Well, my practical-side would be wrong, because I love my kitchen shears and I use them every day. They’re great for opening food packages, of course, but also for cutting herbs, tender veggies, and even trimming meat. The shears are dishwasher safe and also self-sharpening, so they’re always ready for use. Plus, I keep them in my baking drawer, away from my craft-loving daughter’s sight, so I never have to worry about finding them covered with dry glue and glitter.

Last, but not least, is my garlic press that is also from Pampered Chef. It is made from a nice, heavy metal and is very easy to use. Simply pop in a garlic clove (no need to peel it first), squeeze the handles together, and out pops crushed garlic. Garlic not only adds great flavor to food, but it has a lot of health benefits too, so I cook with it almost every day. This press is great for pressing other things too (see my Key Lime Pie recipe) and I even used it to crack open walnuts once!

So, there you have it: the “most valuable players” of my kitchen. Simple, durable, and reliable . . . hey, kind of like me! Happy cooking, my friends!

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Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

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I believe that cooking from scratch is usually healthier and tastier, but I’m a busy mom and some days I can use some help. I’m always on the lookout for quality “convenience” foods, and I was pleased to discover Seeds of Change Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce. It’s a delicious organic mild curry sauce that’s actually made from real food, not chemicals (which is probably why it tastes so good). Click here to check it out.

Preparation couldn’t be easier. I simply sautéed some boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a large skillet, then poured in the jar of Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce and simmered, covered, for about 10 minutes. I then added some frozen peas and continued simmering until heated through. I served it with basmati rice and naan bread. Delicious and easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy (as my 6 year-old would say). You can find Seeds of Change Simmer Sauces in the Natural Foods department of your grocery store.


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LoColvores, how do I love thee?

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Okay, I admit it; I am in love with the LoColvores produce exchange. What’s not to love? Every week or so, I get to mingle with fabulous people and exchange my garden extras (like those cursed yellow squash) for beautiful, fresh produce that I don’t grow in my own garden.

I’ve brought home so many wonderful things, including figs, herbs, pears, onions, peppers, and several varieties of heirloom tomatoes. I save money by not having to buy as much produce at the grocery store, and best of all, the things I get at the exchange are plucked from the vine or ground that day (who knows how long the produce at the grocery store has been lying around).

We have so many wonderful gardeners in our group that we usually have a surplus of produce after the exchange. All of this extra food is donated to our local food bank. It’s great to know that food from our gardens is being used to feed people in the community, rather than going to waste.

Check out the LoColvores’ Facebook page to learn more about it, and to drool over the luscious photos from some of our past exchanges. I hope this will inspire you to consider starting a produce exchange in your community. Don’t forget that exchanging other types of products (eggs, handmade soap, cheeses, knit scarves, etc) is a great idea too!

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Grant Achatz: The Chef Who Couldn’t Taste

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Yesterday morning, while I was chauffeuring my kids around town, I happened to tune the radio to NPR just in time to hear an interview with a chef named Grant Achatz. I had never heard of him before, but the sound of adult voices was a nice change from the “toddler tunes” that had been playing in my car for the last week, so I decided to listen. The chef described the restaurant that he opened in Chicago 6 years ago called Alinea and the type of “avant-garde” cuisine that they served. There was no menu at the restaurant; all diners received the same 3-hour long, 23 course meal. Each of the courses sounded like something to be experienced, rather than simply eaten. My favorite was the pheasant fried with cider “gel”, which was skewered with a thin oak branch, with leaves still attached, which were set on fire just before serving.

The part of the story that really struck me was that this chef, who was so creative with flavors and textures, got tongue cancer and completely lost his ability to taste. I can only imagine what a devastating blow that must have been for him. The good news is that he has recovered and has opened a new restaurant in Chicago called Next, which looks to be extremely popular. I would love to experience it, if I ever find myself in Chicago and lucky enough to be in possession of a $200 ticket (yes, I said “ticket”; you have to pre-purchase your meal months in advance). Oh well, a girl can dream. Click here to go to the NPR website to read the article or listen to the story.

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Welcome to Food of Bliss!

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Don’t you just love food? Not only does food taste delicious, but we have to eat to survive. Eating is one of the few necessities of life that I look forward to every day. Let’s face it, the daily oral hygiene routine doesn’t always send us leaping out of bed in the mornings, but a tasty breakfast? You bet! Pass the pancakes (and coffee) please!

When I’m not eating delicious food, chances are that I’m thinking about it. What’s for dinner tonight? Do I need to prepare part of the meal ahead of time? What are the kids going to eat for lunch? It’s snack time; what kind of fruit do we have? Which veggies do I want to harvest from the garden today? It’s almost dinner time; I’d better start cooking. And my favorite food thought of the day . . . what’s for dessert? Not to mention all of the time I spend planning our weekly menu and shopping for food. Yes, there are plenty of opportunities during the day to feed my food obsession, which also exists outside of my kitchen. Another joy in my life is traveling, and my favorite travel destinations are those with the best food. Barcelona, Spain is a beautiful city with amazing architecture, but it was the flavorful tapas and perfect sangria that made me fall in love with the city.

I’ve loved food as long as I can remember. All of my favorite childhood memories seem to have food associated with them. I can’t think of Disneyland without thinking of churros, camping without thinking of roasted marshmallows, or seeing a movie without thinking of hot, buttery popcorn. Now, I’m sure some nutritionists would shake their heads in disapproval, but I don’t just love food . . . food makes me happy! Sure, healthy food nourishes my body, but it’s the affect on my soul that I really love. Eating good food puts me in a state of complete happiness — bliss! This blog is a compilation of my favorite blissful foods, tips, and recipes, and I hope that it will help you find bliss in every bite.

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