Archives for category: Fall Dinner

Today is my son’s birthday and I made a version of his favorite Surf n’ Turf. The star is the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, alongside Grilled Rib-Eye and Sautéed Spinach. For dessert, it’s Vanilla Cake with Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (a recipe for another post but the picture is below). I enjoy making my young, adult children and my spouse their favorite meals on their birthday. When my kids were younger we had big birthday parties with their childhood friends and family but as they got older the celebrations became smaller.

I first made Lobster Mac n’ Cheese about 10 years ago for my oldest daughter’s birthday while living in New England. Lobster was abundant and easily purchased at our local grocery store. Even though we now live on the opposite coast, I found lobster tails at our local grocery to make this wonderful childhood, comfort-food that’s all grown-up.

Lobster Mac n’ Cheese

Vegetable oil

1 pound elbow macaroni (or other shell-shaped pasta of your choice), cooked al dente

1 cup Monterey, swiss, fontina or gruyere (this is totally up to you since all melt easily and taste great), shredded

1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded

1 quart whole milk

1 stick unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup flour

salt and ground pepper

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 to 1 1/2 pounds cooked lobster meat (defrost if frozen)

1 1/2 cups crushed butter crackers, such as Ritz (I smash them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin)


  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Drizzle about 2 tsp oil into a boiling pot of salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions but al dente. Drain well. (You want the pasta al dente or slightly firm since it will continue to cook in the oven with the other ingredients.)
  3. Add milk to a microwave safe container and heat about 1 to 2 minutes, set aside.
  4. In a large pot, melt 6 TBSP of the butter. Add the flour and cook about 2 to 3 minutes stirring continually with a whisk. Then, while whisking add in the hot milk and cook two minutes longer until thick and smooth. You can add additional milk if it’s too pasty.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the cheese(s), salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until incorporated and the cheeses until melted and smooth.
  6. Add the cooked macaroni and stir to incorporate completely. At this point, you can add half of the mixture into one of two buttered casserole dishes — one will be with lobster and one without lobster (for picky eaters). Keep the other half of the mixture in the pot and add in the lobster. Then, add to the other butter casserole. You can forego this part entirely if everyone is eating lobster and add into one large butter casserole or 6-8 individual gratin dishes.
  7. Melt the remaining 2 TBSP butter and combine with the crushed butter crackers. Divide and sprinkle on top of all the casserole or gratin dishes.
  8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until bubbly and browned on the top.


The lobster can be substituted for crab, pancetta, bacon or any other of your favorites.

To cook the lobster, place it in boiling salted water (I used the pasta water and returned it to a boil). Let cook for about 4-5 minutes until the translucent color turns white and pink — don’t overcook or it’ll be rubber. Or, you can grill the lobster as well. Remove and let cool before cutting into chunks and adding to the pasta mixture.

Future White and Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball Recipe

Enjoy! XOXO Jill

When I was a child, my thoughts about Split Pea Soup were not good. It was something my grandparents ate from a can. It didn’t look appealing at all because really what kid wants anything green? Then, when I was a young adult, I tried a fabulous lady’s Split Pea Soup because she was my mother-in-law and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Also, I knew she was an excellent cook. That’s when the skies opened up and I realized Split Pea Soup was a comfort-food delight if made from scratch.

It became a regular dinner after the holidays in our house that my kids ate not realizing it was something to turn their nose to. My oldest asks me to make Split Pea Soup when she comes to visit.

You can use the left-over ham bone from your holiday dinner to get every last bite. Not to mention, Split Pea Soup is packed with protein and fiber. If you leave out the ham and use vegetable broth, it is a perfect Vegan dish that is hearty and packed with flavor.

Old Fashion Split Pea Soup


1 TBSP Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

2 carrots, chopped (enough for 1 cup)

1 clove garlic, minced

4 cups chicken, turkey broth or vegetable broth (for Vegan recipe)

4 cups water

1 16 ounce bag of dried split peas, rinsed

2 bay leaves

fresh thyme (about 1 tsp) or dried (1/2 tsp)

salt and pepper to taste

ham bone (preferably with meat still on it. I finely chop an extra piece or two of ham that I save) or one pre-packed ham steak, diced. You can omit the ham altogether for a Vegan recipe.

Chopped parsley for garnish (always optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot on medium heat (again I use my Dutch oven for everything). Add the onion, celery and carrots and sauté for 6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another 1 minute.
  2. Pour in the broth and water. Add the split peas, bay leaves and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste (lightly if you’re adding the ham, which is naturally salty)
  3. Add the ham bone and extra cut ham to the soup pot (omit this step for a Vegan recipe). Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Remove the ham bone from the soup mixture and let cool. Then, shave off any extra meat and add it back to the pot. Discard the ham bone.
  5. Season with salt and pepper (I’d taste it before this step because it may not need it) and top with parsley for garnish.

Eat with crusty bread or Saltines like my grandparents!

Enjoy! XOXO Jill

Thanksgiving and the holidays in America are synonymous with turkey and many families have their own tradition for preparing theirs. During a meeting today, a co-worker said he was using his Traeger to smoke his turkey while another mentioned brining and roasting theirs. I even know a few people that are ordering their turkey from their local market and are completely happy.

Every turkey seems to be different for me since I like variety. I’ve Cajun injected and fried several turkeys, which I learned to do when I lived in the South. I’ve also done a variety of turkey brining, roasting (in and out of bags), dry rubbing, citrus marinating and even Spatchcocking (fancy way to write butterflying, which makes it cook quicker). I must write that I never made a dry bird (which is the goal) and every year is an adventure.

This year, we are barbecuing our turkey since our celebration will be smaller. Here’s a simple Grilled Turkey recipe that anyone can master!

Best Grilled Turkey Ever


1 whole turkey (15 to 18 pounds with giblets removed)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

2 onions, quartered

2 lemons, quartered

1 bulb garlic, top sliced off

fresh, sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano, chopped

8-12 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups chicken stock


  1. The night before grilling your turkey, remove any giblets. Pat dry your turkey completely. Place the turkey in a large baking dish or foil pan in the refrigerator overnight, uncovered (this is key since the open air will allow the turkey skin to crisp and harden).
  2. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator one hour before grilling.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat about 450 degrees.
  4. Stack 2-3 foil plans together (one is not enough when using the barbecue)
  5. Place the turkey in the prepared pan, breast-side up. Fill the cavity with 1 halved onion, 1 lemon, the garlic bulb and the fresh herbs. Tie the legs loosely together with kitchen twine. Tuck the wings under the turkey.
  6. Rub the entire turkey with the softened butter. Sprinkle it generously with the salt, pepper and herbs of your choice (dried thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, marjoram).
  7. Pour 1 to 2 cups of the chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add the remaining onions and lemon.
  8. Place the roasting pan on the grill and turn to medium-low about 425 to 450 degrees. Close the grill.
  9. Grill for 2.5 to 3 hours checking periodically. You can baste with the juices, but only keep it open during short intervals.
  10. The turkey will be done when it’s internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. (Don’t overcook — there’s nothing worse than dry turkey!)
  11. Remove from the grill and let rest 30 minutes before slicing.
My Son’s Thanksgiving Plate!

Enjoy! XOXO Jill

My daughter who lives on the East Coast recently gave me an alterative recipe to Mashed Potatoes. It was Burnt Butter Sweet Potato Mash. I tried it out for my other daughter’s birthday dinner along side Spinach, Parmesan Stuffed Flank Steak and Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta. I must say it was divine addition, proving that you can teach new tricks to a traditional cook (no I’m not writing old).

I’m including both recipes to give you choice since either will make Thanksgiving or any dinner complete.

Jill’s Mashed Potatoes (Yes! They are fattening and serves 12)


6 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved (don’t cut the potatoes too small or they will absorb too much water making them pasty)

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

1 cup creme fraiche


  1. In a large stock pot, cover potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil (it is important that the water is cold). Cover and cook over medium heat until the potatoes are tender. This is usually about 20 minutes or when a fork can easily pierce through. Drain the potatoes.
  2. Press the potatoes through a ricer into a large saucepan over low heat. Note: If you do not have a ricer, you can use an old fashion masher or electric hand-held mixer. You want to breakdown the potatoes and eliminate any lumps.
  3. In another small saucepan combine the milk, cream, 10 TBSP butter and salt. Cook until the butter is melted, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Pour the hot milk over the potatoes in the saucepan and mash some more. Cook over low heat and stir until blended. At this point, you’ll add the creme fraiche and remaining 2 TBSP butter for another 5 minutes until melted and incorporated.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a serving bowl.
  6. You can add chives or parsley on top if you wish.

Note: The mashed potatoes can be made up to 3 hours ahead and covered at room temperature. You can just reheat in the oven or microwave when the rest of the dinner is cooking.

Burnt Butter Sweet Potato Mash (Possibly healthier than mashed potatoes and serves 12)


6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered (again you don’t want the pieces too small or they’ll absorb too much water when cooking)

1 cup salted or unsalted butter (2 sticks)

2 tsp vanilla extract (optional but I recommend it)

1 1/2 to 2 cups of milk (your choice of heavy cream, animal or plant based)

fresh thyme and rosemary chopped (enough for 1 TBSP)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Place the sweet potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until fork tender about 15-20 minutes. Drain.
  2. Return the empty pot to the stove and add the butter over medium to low heat. Cook until the butter becomes a light caramel-color stirring continually to prevent burning about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes back to the pot with the burnt butter and mash until smooth. Remove from heat. Add in the vanilla, 1/2 of the warm milk, fresh thyme and rosemary. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. If the potatoes are too thick, you can add the remaining milk and mash until creamy.
  5. Transfer to a casserole dish and top with herbs.

Enjoy! XOXO Jill

Pot Roast or Beef Stew? This is a fair question and one that I was recently asked since both are the perfect comfort food on a cold fall or winter evening. The similarities end there though since Pot Roast is made with a whole piece of meat and requires longer cook time. Beef Stew is made with smaller chunks of meat and takes less time to cook.

Tonight’s dinner is Pot Roast. The method of braising the meat in stock, wine or water while cooking it slowly for a few hours is really the essence of the one pot dish. My choice for this recipe is Boneless Chuck Roast but you can use Brisket, English Roast, Rump Roast or Bottom Round.

Since I make this from memory, I dug through my collection to find a fool-proof one pot dinner recipe that includes carrots, celery, potatoes and pearl onions (optional).

Red Wine Braised Pot Roast


3-5 pounds Boneless Chuck Roast

salt and pepper to taste (or your favorite seasonings)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

4 TBSP Canola or vegetable oil, divided

1 large onion, diced or sliced

1 TBSP garlic

2 celery stalks, cut in chunks

4 carrots, cut in chunks

1 lb potatoes (Yukon, Russet or Red), cut into medium cubes

fresh thyme and rosemary

1 cup red wine

2 TBSP tomato paste

1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce

2 cups beef broth


Salt & Pepper both sides of the meat (you can add any of your favorite seasonings as well)

Heat 2 TBSP oil in a Dutch Oven or large stock pot with a lid (that can go in the oven). Add the meat and sear all sides until golden brown. Remove meat to a platter.

Add the additional 2 TBSP oil to the pan and heat. Then, add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery for about 7 minutes until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of flour onto the vegetables and mix completely about 4 minutes. You want to cook off the flour flavor but add starch to help create the gravy mixture that the meat will cook in.

Add the red wine, Worcestershire, broth and mix completely with the vegetables. Once combined, add the tomato paste until dissolved.

Return the meat to the pan with the vegetables including the potatoes. Add leaves from the thyme stems and chopped Rosemary.

Place in a 325 degree pre-heated oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. I remove the meat from the pot and let it rest for about 3-5 minutes before slicing. You can cut in thick slices and top with vegetables and gravy on a plate. Or, cut the meat and add back into the pot with the vegetables. Either way, it’ll be delicious!

This can be served with a dinner salad and crusty bread.

Enjoy! XOXO Jill

Sundays in Fall are for football, friends and family dinners. And, what goes better with the pigskin being tossed around than good old fashion Oven-Baked Baby Back Ribs? The following recipe is super easy and finger-licking good!

Oven-Baked Baby Back Ribs


One or more whole rack(s) of pork baby back ribs

Seasoning — Season Salt or Salt and Pepper or any store bought meat/rib rub (I use something called “Good Sh*t” that is made at one of our favorite meat stores in Lake Tahoe)

Foil to wrap the ribs

Purchased BBQ Sauce (such as Sweet Baby Rays, Stubs, Rufus Teague or Bull’s Eye) or you can make my recipe below


  1. Season the pork ribs on both sides generously. Then, wrap the ribs completely in foil and place on a baking sheet. I make packets and pinch the foil around the meat to make it air tight.
  2. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours.
  3. Carefully, open the foil packet(s) and baste generously with the barbecue sauce (I warm the BBQ in a saucepan) and broil for about 3 to 5 minutes depending on your oven. Turn the ribs and baste the other side and continue broiling another 3 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven to a cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes and then slice the ribs.
  5. Serve with warm Corn Bread or Corn Muffins (recipe below). Other good side suggestions are coleslaw, buttered and seasoned corn or baked beans.

Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:

2 cups ketchup

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

3 TBSP honey

2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

2 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 hot sauce, or more depending on your taste


  1. Place all the ingredients in a pan over medium low heat. Stir well to combine as it begins to cook.
  2. Bring to a simmer and reduce to low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
  3. This can be made ahead and stored in your refrigerator for one week or frozen for several months.

Cornbread or Corn Muffins


1 cup Gold Medal or other all purpose flour

1 1/4 cup (I use Albers or Bob’s Red Mill) yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup sugar

1 TSP baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Butter or spray (using Pam or other cooking spray) an 8×8 pan or muffin tin (I prefer making muffins)
  3. Whisk the dry ingredients — flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt — together.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients — egg, milk and melted butter.
  5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well.
  6. Pour into the prepared baking pan or muffin tin (fill halfway).
  7. Bake 35 minutes until a toothpick comes our clean.


  • You can add 1 cup of frozen or fresh corn to the batter
  • If you want cornbread but not the hassle of completely making it from scratch, Jiffy, Krusteaz or Marie Callender’s make good box mix. You can also find pre-made store bought cornbread in the bakery section of most grocery stores.

Once baked, top with butter or honey and serve along side the Oven-Baked Baby Back Ribs.

Enjoy! XOXO Jill