thyme

roasted cauliflower and cheddar soup

Spring is finally in full swing and the dogs and I are over the freaking moon.

roasted cauliflower and cheddar soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

While the trees are bursting with buds and daffodils are blooming like it’s their job, local produce hasn’t seemed to catch up just yet. New York’s farmers markets boast plenty of local meat and dairy, and tables overflowing with brightly colored annual flowers, but sweet juicy berries and bright green vegetables still need a few weeks to soak up the warm sunshine.

roasted cauliflower and cheddar soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

True to form, this spring has been toying with me and my frail emotions. Temperatures one day are soaring into the 70s, and the next they’re dipping back into the 40s. One day we have ample sunshine, the next it’s pouring rain.

roasted cauliflower and cheddar soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

On one of the cold and rainy days I was craving soup, as one does. With no local produce to choose from, I was off to the grocery store to try to find something fresh-ish and hopefully organic that I could turn into a warm satisfying soup. I also had a healthy stash of amazing Irish cheddar that was leftover after a book signing event at work, so I wanted to try to incorporate some of that cheesy goodness.

roasted cauliflower and cheddar soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

It didn’t take me long in the produce aisle to come up with a plan. What better vegetable for a thick warm filling soup than cauliflower? It’s available year round, goes great with cheddar and warm flavors, and is perfect for a rich and roasty soup.

roasted cauliflower and cheddar soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

This soup is really simple to make and definitely hits the spot on a rainy day, no matter what time of year. The fresh woodsy thyme adds a touch of green herbal freshness, and the white wine adds a crisp brightness that feels very appropriate for spring or summer. Roasting the cauliflower before pureeing it deepens and concentrates its earthy flavor, and the sharp cheddar adds a nice zippy tang without feeling heavy or overwhelming.

Pull up a bowl, tear into a nice crusty loaf of bread, and park yourself in front of the window and watch the rain come down.

roasted cauliflower and cheddar soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Roasted Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup

  • Servings: 6 to 8 -ish
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2 heads of cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
5 to 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups low sodium chicken stock
8 oz sharp cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 400. Chop cauliflower into rough large florets. Toss in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and arrange in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast until brown and golden, about 30 or 40 minutes.

Preheat a stockpot over medium high heat and bring butter to a sizzle. Add onion, cayenne, paprika, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until tender and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add white wine and reduce by at least half. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add roasted cauliflower, bring back to a boil, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and remove thyme sprigs. Add cheddar and puree until silky smooth, using either an immersion blender or working in batches in a standing blender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a small handful of grated cheddar, and a big hunk of crusty bread.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks

I tend to go a little crazy around Thanksgiving every year.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

Not only is it one of my favorite holidays, one that I take VERY seriously, but it’s also the beginning of the busiest season of the year where I work.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

No matter how much planning and thinking ahead I do to make things easy on myself, the chaos at work and the perfection pressure I put on myself always starts to overwhelm me in the week or so before the day of the big bird.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year I’ve been poking around the internet for tips and ideas on the best way to host a stress-free Thanksgiving; and make sure every aspect of the day, from the shopping and prep work to the serving and cleaning up, goes as smoothly as possible.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

This ain’t my first time at the rodeo, so a lot of the information I found wasn’t entirely new to me. One tip that I realized would actually make a big difference though, is not testing out any new-to-me recipes when I have a million other things going on in the kitchen.

Sometimes those unfamiliar recipes on Pinterest may look perfectly delicious on the screen but can actually turn out to be a big fat flop in reality. You don’t need to add that flop possibility, or any extra time figuring out a new recipe, to the already lengthy list of chores and worries you have when people are on their way for the biggest meal of the year.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

Even when the tips I’ve found haven’t been entirely new to me, I’ve tried to do my best to share them with you on facebook and pinterest. I hope you’ve been learning (and making your lives easier) right a long with me.

If you don’t follow me on social media, you totally should. Not only does it make me feel warm and fuzzy to get new “likes” and “follows”, but you might learn something too! I try to share as much information as I can right here on the blog, but I can only do (and write) so much. When I find something interesting or helpful on the internet that I don’t have the time or expertise to blog about, I try my best to the share the wealth on social media so you don’t feel left out.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

This Thanksgiving I’ll be making the same (life-changing) turkey recipe that I made last year, along with some pies that I’m completely comfortable with.

In the name of not testing new recipes with so many other projects in play, I’ve been working on a few things ahead of time to make sure I know what to expect and don’t need to work out any kinks. Last week a good friend was visiting from out of town so I used her as a guinea pig for my new sweet potato gratin recipe and this here apple walnut dressing (or stuffing, if you prefer, though technically it’s not stuffing unless it’s actually stuffed in something).

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

This recipe has everything I want to see in my dressing. Yeasty artisan bread made tender with rich stock on the inside with a crispy craggy buttery golden top. The variety of flavors and textures going on here are the perfect compliment to any roasted poultry (or pork), no matter what the occasion. Tender sweet apples, crunchy bitter walnuts, chewy savory sausage, and rich caramelized leeks all brought together with plenty of autumnal herbs and a mixture of chicken stock and apple cider. I seriously cannot get enough of these flavor combinations this time of year, and I think you and your friends and family won’t be able to either.

This can easily be made vegetarian by leaving out the sausage and swapping vegetable stock for chicken. There are more than enough other elements and flavors at play here that the dressing will still be amazing, and truth be told, it looks like I’ll be leaving the sausage out myself to accommodate my guests.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

Apple Walnut Dressing with Sausage and Caramelized Leeks

Inspired by thekitchn

One 1 1/2 to 2 pound loaf artisan bread
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (spicy works too)
2 cups thinly sliced leeks or 1 cup finely diced onion
3 celery stalks, diced (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 large firm apple, diced (I used Braeburn)
3 large eggs
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup apple cider
2 cups chicken or turkey stock
2 tablespoons butter

Heat the oven to 350°F. Slice the bread into small cubes, removing the crusts if desired, and spread the cubes in a single layer on two baking sheets. Toast for ten minutes, stir up, and add the chopped nuts. Continue toasting until the bread is completely dry and the walnuts are toasted, approximately another 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. If you like to think way ahead, you can toast your bread and store it up to a week before moving on with the next step.

To prepare your leeks, slice the white and tender green parts in thin disks, and slice each disk in half. Discard the deep green leaves. Place all the sliced leeks into a bowl and top with cold water. Leeks are very sandy so this is important. scoop the leeks out being careful not to disturb the sand at the bottom of the bowl. Repeat twice, and set aside to drain dry.

Brown the sausage with a sprinkle of salt over medium heat, breaking it up into crumbles as you cook, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked sausage to a bowl and drain off all but a few teaspoons of the fat.

In the same pan over medium heat, cook the leeks with a sprinkle of salt until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 or 10 minutes. Add the celery and continue cooking until the celery is softened, another 5 minutes. Add the apples and the fresh herbs. Cook until the apples are just starting to soften, another 1-3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove the pan from heat.

Increase the oven temperature to 400°F.

Combine the sausage, vegetables, apples, bread cubes, and nuts in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs, and add in the salt, cider and chicken stock. Whisk to combine and pour over the stuffing. Gently fold or stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated, being careful not to mash down or squish the bread cubes.

Pour the dressing into the baking dish and try to even it out. If you have a bit too much you can mound it a bit in the center, or bake some separately in ramekins (or you can make it into stuffing by filling it into the hollow cavity of a turkey). Dot the top with butter and cover the dish with aluminum foil. If you’re trying to make things a day ahead, you could stop here and refrigerate the whole shebang to be baked the next day. Just make sure you take the dish out about an hour before baking so you don’t crack your baking dish by putting a cold dish into a hot oven.

Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is crispy and golden, another 15-20 minutes. Let cool briefly before serving.

grilled lemon herb chicken thighs

So, in case you haven’t already noticed, it’s starting to warm up outside and things are starting to turn green. I’m so into it.

grilled lemon herb chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

On Sunday we decided it was warm enough to have our first cookout of the year. It wasn’t really, but we were drinking so no one seemed to notice. We gathered some friends, fed them some cocktails, and cooked up a bunch of food over an open flame. We also tried to overlook the fact that I was standing over the grill with a camera while everyone else was enjoying the outdoors for the first time since 2013. In case you were wondering, photographing a grill while smoke pours out can be an awkward task, especially when the wind can’t decide which direction it wants to blow.

grilled lemon herb chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

I thought the perfect thing for a warm(ish) spring day would be some lemony grilled chicken thighs with plenty of fresh green herbs. I know, chicken thighs again. I’ve already said this, but beyond being affordable, chicken thighs are also really juicy, tender, and flavorful. They also happen to lend themselves perfectly to grilling. I love white meat too, but I sometimes find that breast meat can dry out on the grill if you’re not a really experience griller. Chicken thighs are much more forgiving if you forget them while you’re sipping your drink and accidentally leave them on just a bit too long, or if you’re afraid of undercooking and intentionally leave them on just a bit too long. Either way, they’re going to come out moist and delicious and all your friends will tell you how skilled you are at cooking with fire.

To go along with our chicken, I also grilled some marinated veggie kabobs. A nice mix of grape tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms was just what the doctor ordered. I LOVE the way grape tomatoes get all hot and juicy and just barely hold their shape when you grill them. You can definitely play with other veggies too, but it’s important to keep in mind that they’ll all cook for the same amount of time. Simply cut up your veggies into bite sized chunks (l left my mushrooms and tomatoes whole), marinate for an hour or two, arrange on skewers, and cover until you’re ready to grill. If you’re using wooden skewers you should soak them in water while your veggies marinate so they don’t burn on the grill. As for marinades, I think vinaigrettes work really well for grilled vegetables, but you can really use whatever you like. In this case, I just made a little extra lemon herb marinade and used that.

grilled lemon herb chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

When it comes to cooking outdoors, I’m a firm believer that charcoal grills give your food MUCH more flavor. Gas grills cook your food, and you’ll be standing outside while it happens, but you’re really not going to get any of that smokey “grilled” flavor. If you have a gas grill at home and want to try to get that smokiness, I’d suggest trying some hardwood smoking chips. Smoking chips usually come in a few different flavors like hickory or applewood, and can be found online or at many grocery or hardware stores. Before using them you need to soak the chips in water so they don’t just burn up. To contain the ash and prevent them from burning too quickly, you can make a pouch for your chips out of aluminum foil, or get one of these handy smoke boxes.

grilled lemon herb chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

This chicken is seriously phenomenal. So good in fact, that one of our friends who usually doesn’t eat meat went back in for seconds. The skin gets all crispy and golden brown, while the meat stays moist and full of flavor. The marinade completely permeates the meat without being overpowering. It’s savory, aromatic, and earthy thanks to two fresh herbs and a healthy dose of garlic, and the olive oil and lemon juice make it tangy, sweet and bright. These fresh clean flavors are an ideal pairing with the smokiness that comes from cooking with charcoal or hardwood chips. You might not see another grilling recipe for the rest of year, because I’m just going to make this over and over and over. Just kidding! I promise!

grilled lemon herb chicken thighs | Brooklyn Homemaker

Grilled Lemon Herb Chicken Thighs

  • Servings: 5-10ish *see cook's note
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8-10 chicken thighs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 3 lemons
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon rosemary (finely chopped)
2 teaspoons thyme (finely chopped)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Wash and dry chicken thighs and place in a shallow dish. Combine all remaining ingredients, mix well, and pour over the chicken thighs. Turn the pieces over and over until they’re all well coated in marinade. Press the chicken down into the dish so it’s as submerged as possible. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-8 hours, turning the chicken a few times so it’s all well coated.

Once marinated, prepare your grill. A gas grill should be on low heat, or a charcoal grill should be prepared so one side has fewer coals than the other. Place the chicken on the cooler side of the grill, skin side up, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the underside is golden brown. Resist the urge to pour the marinade over the chicken. Turn each piece over once, cooking for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the grill and let rest, covered with foil, for 5 minutes before serving.

*cook’s note:
You can definitely increase (or decrease) this recipe to accommodate the number of guests you’re cooking for. I’d recommend one to two pieces per person, depending on the size of your thighs, what else you’re serving, and how hungry you think your guests might be.

braised chicken thighs with creamy greens and beans

So, as much as everyone in New York is trying to convince themselves otherwise, it’s still winter… UGH.

braised chicken thighs with creamy greens and beans | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s a strange thing to be able to literally smell spring around the corner, but to have it still remain painfully out of reach. After this long hard winter, people want to bust out the short shorts and tank tops the minute the sun comes out and temperatures rise above freezing. Unfortunately, mother nature has other plans for us poor ol’ city folk. One day birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and temperatures are soaring (SOARING!!!) into low sixties, but it’s just lady nature messing with our heads, and the next day the wind is reaching gail force and the temperatures barely reach the high teens. One day I’m dreaming of barbecues and watermelon margaritas, and the next day the heat’s cranking and I’m back in front of the stove trying to trick myself with citrus, garlic and greens.

braised chicken thighs with creamy greens and beans | Brooklyn Homemaker

Hopefully I’ll be out in the garden planting annuals and watching the crocus’ bloom very soon, but for now I’m back in the kitchen braising chicken thighs again. This recipe is kind of similar to the last braised chicken recipe I posted, but with some pretty major changes. I guess I’m a creature of habit. What can I say? I used chicken thighs again because, like I said before, they’re a great way to make a meal taste like it cooked all day when it really took about an hour and a half. I also used thyme, lemon, and white wine again, because, well… because those flavors are killer together with braised chicken thighs. Deal with it.
After that though, things went in a very different, very delicious direction.

braised chicken thighs with creamy greens and beans | Brooklyn Homemaker  braised chicken thighs with creamy greens and beans | Brooklyn Homemaker

The sauce for this is so rich and creamy and garlicy and wonderful. After the chicken gets all cozy and relaxed in the oven, it comes out and rests a bit while the sauce reduces and some fresh greens and white beans go in to soak up all that deliciousness. I chose to make this with red chard, but if you’d prefer spinach or something similar, knock yourself out. If you’d like to try this with kale or another braising green, I’d suggest cooking the greens for an extra five or ten minutes, and waiting to add the beans until the greens are almost fully cooked. I think the chard was the perfect choice though, and it adds a bit of bitterness and bite while still being fresh and green and tender. The beans add a bit of texture and interest, along with just enough starch to make this feel like a complete meal.

braised chicken thighs with creamy greens and beans | Brooklyn Homemaker

This dish came out better than I ever imagined. Like sooooooooo good. First of all, thyme and chicken are amazing together. Definitely one of my favorite combinations. Then when you add white wine, cream, and garlic, and just let it all get happy together in the oven… Heaven. The chicken is perfectly rich and falling off the bone, and the tender wilted greens and soft starchy beans make this meal one perfect wonderful dish. After one bite Russell was planning dinner parties and deciding which of our friends should have the privilege of tasting this. If it wasn’t amazing enough already, on top of everything this meal is also really simple to make and is all made in the same pot! I mean. Can it get any better? Actually, yes it can. With a glass of white wine and a big thick slice of nice crusty bread to sop up the sauce. You’re welcome.

braised chicken thighs with creamy greens and beans | Brooklyn Homemaker

Braised Chicken Thighs with Creamy Greens and Beans

  • Servings: 4-8 (depending on the size of your chicken thighs)
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8 chicken thighs (skin-on & bone-in)
salt and pepper for seasoning
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
7 or 8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
zest of 1 lemon (peeled in strips with a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith)
6 or 7 fresh thyme sprigs
1 (28 oz) can cannellini beans
1 or 2 bunches of swiss chard, washed and torn into bite sized shreds *see note

Preheat your oven to 375.
Season your chicken thighs with salt and pepper and dust with flour, on both sides. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or braising pan (not raw cast iron) and add chicken skin side down. Brown for 5 to 8 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken to a plate, leaving the remaining oil. Saute the shallots and garlic for 5 minutes until the shallots are tender and translucent. Add the wine and thyme, turn the heat up to high, and boil until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up any browned bits. Add the lemon, stock, and cream to the pan, bring back to a boil, and add the chicken skin side up.  Transfer the pan, uncovered, to the oven to braise for 45 minutes or until meat is fork tender.

Remove the pan from the oven, transfer the chicken to a plate, and tent with foil. Move the pan back to the stovetop and boil over high heat until the sauce is slightly reduced, for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme and lemon zest. Add the chard and beans, and cook on high for 5 minutes more, or until the greens are completely wilted. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary, and serve the chicken over a bed of the beans and greens.

*cook’s note- if you have large chicken thighs or want to serve a lot of greens use 2 bunches, otherwise one is fine. It cooks down A LOT, so 2 bunches will be perfect if you’re serving more than 4 people, or if you really like chard!