Sunday Family Dinner

All the Smokey Goodness..and Then Some!

November 2017 Fam Din
Ever since brother got a Traegar Grill/Smoker, we have been living the glorious all-the-smoked-goodness life! So it was no surprise that for his birthday family dinner, he volunteered to take on the entrees. Hey-I wasn’t going to argue with the birthday boy!

We quickly got the munchkins involved. Here’s Maya and Luna making a bechamel. I mean, what 12 and 8 year old doesn’t know how to make a bechamel???

November 2017 Fam Din
And of course, safety first when the rugrats are cooking. Good thing Bella and Princess Leia are such conscientious supervisors.

November 2017 Fam Din
And while the kiddos went to town, I whipped up cocktails. Since brother is a whiskey and bourbon fan, I mixed up a batch of my Boozy Fall Punch (yeah…I’m a little late on posting this).

It had all kinds of autumnal things like bourbon, brandy, apple cider, pomegranate juice, blood orange soda, cinnamon sticks and chopped up fruit.

It was boozy. It was tasty. Mission Accomplished.

November 2017 Fam Din
The cocktails packed a punch! So we noshed on a Charcuterie Platter….because you know how much we love our cheeses and cured meats!

I just realized the La Tur cheese from Murray’s below kind of looks like a mini-cheesecake. But trust me, it was la tur-rific!

November 2017 Fam Din
Seestrah T also made these cute Mini French Onion Bread Bowls as a second appetizer–recipe courtesy of Tastemade.

November 2017 Fam Din
Think of French Onion Soup…but in dip form! And in its own little bread bowl! Brilliant!

And gosh darn it, it was scrumptious!

November 2017 Fam Din
Quick cooking/eating break for a picture!

November 2017 Fam Din
Can’t forget the dudes!

November 2017 Fam Din

Now on to the food!!!

First up, brother smoked a ginormous side of salmon. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t love salmon. I don’t hate it and I’ll eat it–but of the fishes, it’s not my fav. But when brother busted out this Smoked Salmon he smoked low and slow with mesquite wood pellets, I WAS ALL ABOUT IT!!

It was SUPER moist and had the lightest bit of smoke. The added capers and fresh lemon juice helped to cut through the fatty fish and it was perfect!

November 2017 Fam Din
Not to be outdone by the aquatic beasts, he also did up a huge platter of Smoked Beef Ribs.

November 2017 Fam Din

They were, they were….one word.


November 2017 Fam Din

This time around, I was in charge of the sides. First up! Mac and Cheese!

And as you recall, I enlisted Maya and Luna to help out. No idea why N popped in…maybe to try to get in on the credit I suppose. That big seestrah of ours….

November 2017 Fam Din

I make Mac and Cheese quite often but I was listening to a Bon Appetit Pod Cast on the way into work and decided to give their BA’s Best Macaroni and Cheese a shot.

Let me tell you gang, there’s a whole ton of various cheeses in this business — Fontina, Gruyere, White Cheddar and Parmesan. But I decided to go big and added Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack.

I mean, I didn’t want them to feel left out.

And instead of making Maya hand shred all the cheeses, we busted out the food processor. She was definitely pleased with that decision.

November 2017 Fam Din
How did it turn out?

Quite good!

Ridiculously cheesy… but I guess 6 different cheeses will do that to a dish. But yes, I definitely recommend it. It’s quite easy to make and the end result is on point!

November 2017 Fam Din

With all that protein and 200 pounds of cheese, I figured it would be good to have some veggies. So I pulled together a quick Sauteed Kale and Swiss Chard situation. I quickly sauteed some garlic, shallots and chili flakes in some olive oil and threw in a bunch of Lacinato Kale and Swiss Chard. After they were lightly wilted, I finished it with a douse of red wine vinegar to brighten things up.

Eat your veggies right?

November 2017 Fam Din
Before dessert, most of us cleaned up a bit and someone took a nap. Oh that Leia, she’s a reliable one.

And if you’re wondering what Bella was doing, I can only assume that she was upstairs ordering take-out while watching Minecraft videos on YouTube.

November 2017 Fam Din

When we asked brother what he wanted for his dessert, he almost instantaneously replied “flan”.  And I’ve got to tell you, I was surprised. I’ve known him all my life and had no idea that the man liked flan that much!

We were dumbfounded….

Seester N’s F.I.L. has a great flan recipe so we immediately tasked her with the job. She used these cute ramekins to make individual sized flan.

November 2017 Fam Din
And to kick things up (it was brother’s bday after all), she spiked the adult flans with rum!

The Creamy Rum Flan was perfect! Creamy (I know, it’s in the name), light and was the most delectable finish to our meal!

November 2017 Fam Din
Here’s one of the munchkins caught in the act….we do pass on great habits, right?

November 2017 Fam Din
And with that, brother’s Family Dinner was a wrap! Here’s to you V! ❤

November 2017 Fam Din


This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Boozy Fall Punch, Various Wine
Appetizers: Charcuterie Platter, Mini French Onion Bread Bowls
Entrees: Smoked Salmon, Smoked Beef Ribs
Sides: Bon Appetit’s Best Macaroni and Cheese, Sauteed Kale and Swiss Chard
Dessert: Creamy Rum Flan

Pastas/Noodles · Pork · Soups/Stews

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

I’m kind of in love.

With this soup, that is.

It’s warming and fulfilling with tons of veggies, beans, sausage, and pasta. I also threw in some beautiful Swiss Chard at the end for some added texture and flavor— but any type of dark, leafy green could do the trick. Extra veggies never hurt a gal, right?

Depending on how you like the consistency of your soup, you can either add or limit the amount of chicken broth. I personally like mine on the soupier side so I can dunk some crusty bread in.

But one thing is for certain. No matter how you prefer it, this Pasta e Fagioli is the ultimate comfort food.


Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 6-8


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup white onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, finely minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups low sodium chicken broth, or more depending on desired consistency
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 dried bay leaves
¾- 1 cup macaroni noodles, or other short pasta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 cups Swiss Chard, cleaned and roughly chopped
kosher salt and black pepper

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium. Add sausage and use a wooden spoon to crumble up the meat. Continue browning until the sausage is barely pink. Add the onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and sauté until the vegetables have softened. Add in the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes with its juices and Cannellini beans. Add chicken stock, thyme and bay leaves. Partially cover and bring the pot to a boil. Remove the lid and stir in the pasta. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until pasta is al dente—about 9-10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme stems. Stir in the cheese and Swiss Chard. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Poultry · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Roasted Cornish Game Hen with Red Swiss Chard

While at the farmers’ market the other day, we ended up picking up some Red Swiss Chard. The color was so bright and vibrant that we were immediately drawn to it. In truth, we had never prepared it before–nor did we know what we were going to do with it. But, when at the farmers’ market, pick up what’s fresh.

Since the Chard is of the dark greens genre, we figured a low, slow saute with bacon would be a great preparation. And well, I’m always trying to find ways to add bacon into things.

As for the main dish, we settled on roasting a Cornish Game for an earthy, and somewhat rustic feel. Plus, Game Hen is perfect when prepping dinner for two. MUCH faster than roasting an entire chicken and the perfect serving size.

Our end result was absolutely delicious! HEARTY, savory, and just darn belly warming. We plated the hen with toasted pieces of bread underneath to soak up all juices. Waste not, want not! And as for the Chard—stunning! Slightly bitter yet much more tender than I expected. Of course, the bacon added a wonderful smokey taste but didn’t overpower the natural flavors of the greens. This is DEFINITELY being added to my veggies repertoire.

Have any other suggestions to pair Swiss Chard with? Leave me a comment as I’m always looking for some delish suggestions!


Searing the  Cornish Game Hen

Thoroughly clean and dry the Chard before chopping

Browning the Onions and Bacon

Sauteing the Chard

Cornish Game Hen with Swiss Chard
Serves 2


Cornish Game Hen
1 Cornish Game Hen, cleaned and thoroughly dried
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
¼ Yellow Onion, quartered
4 Large Garlic Cloves, crushed
1 Bouquet Garni (3 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary, 5 Springs Fresh Thyme, 3 Springs Fresh Sweet Basil)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Swiss Chard
1 Bunch of fresh Swiss Chard (washed , dried, and chopped. Approximately 5-6 cups.)
3 Slices Bacon, chopped
¼ Cup Yellow Onion, sliced
4-5 Large Garlic Cloves, finely minced
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

4 Thick Slices of Bread, toasted (such as Ciabatta, Sourdough)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Take Hen and slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin. Rub 2 tablespoons Butter underneath skin. Inside the cavity, heavily salt and pepper the hen. Stuff the cavity with the remaining Butter, Yellow Onion, Garlic, and Bouquet Garni. Rub the exterior of the Hen with Olive Oil and Salt & Pepper the Hen. Tie the legs loosely together with kitchen twine.

In a dutch oven heated on medium high, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the Hen in the dutch oven, breast side down. Sear until golden brown—approximately 4-5 minutes. Flip Hen so that the breast faces upwards. Cover the dutch oven and place in the oven. After 25 minutes, remove lid. Roast Hen until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 170 degrees. Carefully remove from dutch oven and rest on cutting board. Cover and loosely tent with aluminum foil.

Move dutch oven to the range and turn flame to medium. Carefully add sliced Yellow Onion and chopped Bacon. Cook until Bacon is barely crispy. Add Garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add stems of Swiss Chard and stir. Cover and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Remove lid and add leaves of Swiss Chard. Sauté for an additional 3-4 minutes or until Chard is tender.  Remove from heat and stir in Vinegar. Salt and Pepper to taste.

To plate, place Swiss Chard on dish. Place two pieces of toasted bread on top of Chard. Proceed to place Hen on top of toast. Spoon any remaining juices from the Swiss Chard dutch oven over the chicken.

Serve and Enjoy!