Healthy Strawberry Almond Smoothie

Energizing Strawberry Almond Smoothie | Set the Table

I have big plans for the weekend. We are going to be baking cookies and delivering them to our friends. We are going to be wrapping presents while drinking hot chocolate. We are going to be watching Christmas movies while eating popcorn. We are going to have the best time ever. Admittedly, this won’t be the healthiest weekend ever, but I am doing what I can to create balance by incorporating plenty of veggie-based meals and healthy smoothies to make sure we are still getting the things our bodies need. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. This Strawberry Almond Smoothie recipe makes my job a lot easier, that’s for sure. Sweet strawberries, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a couple tablespoons of almond butter, and a healthy dose of wheat germ make this healthy smoothie a tasty, nutrient-packed hit (even with the super picky 3 year old). That makes me happy amidst the seemingly endless stream of Christmas cookies.

Strawberry-Almond Smoothie | Set the Table

This year, we are not traveling anywhere for the holidays. We are staying home, getting ready for baby, praying that the snow they are forecasting for Denver in the days leading up to and including Christmas actually happens, and spending some last precious moments as a family of 3. I think just last night it hit me that this new little one of ours will be here VERY soon. I’ve been aware of the timing, obviously, but it really sunk in last night and now I’m giddy/terrified/anxious about this little boy’s arrival. We bought a big boy bed for our 3 year old last weekend and having that set up has been good. He’s getting used to having two beds in his room, since he’ll be sharing the space eventually, and very sweetly places his blankie in his baby brother’s bed on occasion. The fact that he is so thrilled to be a big brother is a huge help for my sanity. Although, we are in the thick of the terrible 3’s (terrible 2’s are a lie, by the way) and that often triggers a little panic for us parents. It will all work out, I’m sure. We’ll survive, just as we did during those first difficult weeks with our first baby. Will it be hard? Absolutely. Can it be done? Oh, yes. Will there be so much more love to go around? So. Much.

Kid-Friendly Strawberry Almond Smoothie | Set the Table

My priorities go something like this right now: spend as much time as possible with the guy in the photo above; take afternoon naps; do yoga; take baths; don’t freak out. And in the midst of all of that I’m working on putting together posts for the blog so I don’t leave you all hanging while I’m a sleep-deprived, mommy zombie. You’re welcome…? Some days are easier than others, but generally life is good. I mean, look at those little hands wrapped around that smoothie. Need I say more? Sweetness.

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19. December 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Breakfast & Brunch, Kid Friendly, No Added Sugar, Vegetarian | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Cranberry-Jalapeño Relish with Savory Cheesecake

Cranberry Jalapeno Relish Appetizer | Set the Table

Christmas is next week. NEXT WEEK. I don’t know if it’s the whole being pregnant thing or perhaps it’s the typical hustle and bustle of the season that has made me lose all track of time, but I am no where near as ready as I like to be with presents, plans, and everything in between. Instead of wrapping presents I’ve been folding baby clothes (they’re so tiny!) and thinking about everything that needs to happen before our new little one arrives in just a few short weeks. Sometimes I worry that I’m not as prepared this time around. Maybe that’s normal for the second baby. Maybe what happens is, since you’ve done it once, you figure having a newborn around is kind of like riding a bike. It isn’t, of course. Riding a bike is much easier. Lucky for me, I have the very best holiday appetizer on hand that can be made ahead and looks pretty and festive and like you spent hours working on it. Cranberry-Jalapeño Relish with Savory Cheesecake = your holiday appetizer secret weapon.

Cranberry-Jalapeno Relish | Set the Table

Cranberry Jalapeno Relish | Set the Table

A college friend of mine gave me the relish recipe. It took me a while to get around to making but after one bite I was kicking myself for not making it once a week starting the second she sent me the recipe. Ellie, you’ve made my holiday season easier and more flavorful. Thanks!

Cranberry-Jalapeno Relish with Savory Cheesecake | Set the Table

This relish could be used for any number of things but I love it over savory cheesecake. My savory cheesecake is simply cream cheese, greek yogurt, garlic salt and a couple of eggs. So simple you won’t even know what to do with yourself. The relish and the cheesecake both last a couple of days in the fridge so they can be made ahead of time. To add a little extra color to the relish before serving, I like to add an additional sprinkle of cilantro. Other than that, the only prep you need to do before serving is to add a few crackers to the platter!

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17. December 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Cocktails & Appetizers, Entertaining | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Papardelle with Parsley, Yuzu & Shichimi Togarashi

Papardelle with Yuzu + Togarashi | Set the Table

Like most people, I’m a fan of a simple bowl of pasta. There’s something that feels fancy, like a new pair of sassy heels, when you’re twirling long, ribbon-like noodles around the tines of a fork. And yet, there is a sweatpants-like comfort about the chewy noodles traveling from your mouth to your belly, filling you up and making you feel cozy all over. My favorite kind of pasta has to be papardelle. It’s long, flat, eggy noodleness is something I simply cannot resist. And I don’t like to dress it up too much. A simple pat of butter with a sprinkling of salt and pepper or parmesan cheese is really all it needs. Still, sometimes I feel guilty eating a bowl full of white carbohydrates, so I add lots of fresh parsley to make myself feel better. Plus, it’s just so pretty having all those little green flecks scattered throughout the bowl. This particular recipe is inspired by some Japanese flavors that aren’t normally used in pasta dishes. I was feeling a little rebellious and decided to channel that feeling by adding yuzu zest and shichimi togarashi to this bowl of deliciousness. Papardelle with parsley, yuzu & shichimi togarashi is allowed, right? Right.

Parsley, Shichimi + Yuzu | Set the Table

If you’ve never tried shichimi togarashi, I highly recommend that you get right on that. Now. I’ll wait.

OK, if you can’t go try it right this second, I’ll give you a little info on what to expect. It’s basically a condiment with a red pepper flake base and bits of sesame seeds and other flavors like ginger and orange. It pairs perfectly with aromatic yuzu zest, which, if you haven’t tried that either, is slightly reminiscent of grapefruit but too wonderfully unique to compare to any more familiar citrus fruits. It adds a perfect twist to recipes that otherwise call for lemon zest and I find the two almost always interchangeable.

Papardelle with Poached Egg, Yuzu & Shichimi Togarashi | Set the Table

Parsley | Set the Table

Meals like this are what keep me sane during the holidays when I feel like I can barely put one foot in front of the other without forgetting something in the process. There is so much to do and plan for that mealtimes tend to fall by the wayside. With simple, delicious options like this around, there’s no reason to opt for fast food cheeseburgers or greasy Chinese takeout.

Although, there are times for that as well.

And of course, if you’ve followed Set the Table for any amount of time, you may not be surprised at my addition of a poached egg. Because YUM.

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12. December 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Lunch & Dinner | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chinese 5 Spice Hot Cocoa

Chinese 5 Spice Hot Cocoa | Set the Table

We finally have all of our Christmas lights and other decorations up. And, true to form, Colorado has given us crazy warm weather, leaving me feeling like we’ve put all of these decorations up in May instead of December. It’s very confusing. Still, I’m pushing through by listening to constant Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, and burning pine scented candles. And lets not forget the hot chocolate. There are other warm holiday beverages that are equally as festive, but nothing so classically comforting as a mug of hot chocolate. There has been lots of hot chocolate happening around here lately. I decided to mix things up a little bit by adding a bit of Chinese 5 Spice powder to my hot cocoa mix and boy am I glad I took that leap. The star anise, cinnamon, and cloves are natural flavor enhancers for hot chocolate. Then, there’s the Szechuan pepper and fennel that give it that little bit of uniqueness that makes traditional recipes more special. Who knew Chinese 5 Spice Hot Cocoa could spur such excitement?

Chinese 5 Spice Hot Chocolate | Set the Table

I would tell you to make your own hot chocolate mix, but let’s be honest: sometimes it’s nice to have a recipe that dresses up something you can purchase, ready made, in the store. That may seem like cheating to some people, but I am becoming a believer in good quality store bought items to make life a little easier. With that said, if you do have the energy to make your own hot chocolate mix (unlike my 8 months pregnant self) have at it! In fact, this recipe is my favorite. Otherwise, trust me that this will be just as delicious with a good quality mix.

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10. December 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Cocktails & Appetizers | Tags: , , , , | 2 comments

Healthy Eggnog Overnight Oats

Eggnog Overnight Oats | Set the Table

Six weeks. In only six weeks we will be welcoming a very tiny little baby into our family. Well, let’s be honest…based on the weight of #1 at birth (8.9 pounds to be exact) he may not be too tiny. Still, that seems like a pretty short amount of time. I spent some time last night looking through pictures of Riley when he was born in Tokyo and I kept going between moments of glee to have a newborn and moments of complete terror to have two kids instead of just one. I am told that these feelings are completely normal. I suppose you wade through the waters of having 2 kids the same way to do when you have your first. Just keep plugging along doing the best you can and making sure everyone is still alive at the end of the day. I suppose that means I have to be even more purposeful with the way I start my day to make sure it ends well. It’s a good thing I’ve discovered overnight oats. Hello, easy! And these healthy eggnog overnight oats are perfect for the holidays.

Healthy Overnight Eggnog Oats | Set the Table

I like to make my overnight oats with almond milk, which is why my recent (and perhaps a bit behind the curve) discovery of eggnog made with almond milk inspired me to add a little holiday spin to an otherwise very basic breakfast. The flavor is wonderful and, to add some extra creaminess, I added a little vanilla yogurt. The regular kind, not Greek. Though I’m sure whatever you have on hand would be fine.

Healthy Eggnog Oats | Set the Table

Now, let’s talk about my favorite part of any meal: the add-ons. I sprinkle plenty of ground cinnamon over my oats (random pregnancy craving plus cinnamon is just plain delicious), along with toasted walnuts and sweet raisins. I like to go a little heavy handed on the toppings to give a little variety to the texture of my oatmeal but you can of course do as you please to suit your tastes. I’ve been thinking about how delicious (and slightly sinful) this recipe would be with crumbled ginger snaps on top. Am I crazy? Sure. Is that so bad? Depends on who you ask.

Healthy Eggnog Overnight Oats | Set the Table

My sister is coming to visit today (squeeeeee!) and I’ll definitely be giving this to her for breakfast. What could be better than a comforting bowl of oatmeal for holiday guests? Not much, if you ask me. Rebecca and I will be having a Sister Christmas Celebration since we won’t be together for the actual holiday this year and eggnog flavored things seems like the perfect way to kick things off. I’ll also be freaking her out with the crazy ninja moves the little baby in my belly makes all day every day. It’s gonna be awesome. Continue Reading →

03. December 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Breakfast & Brunch, Kid Friendly, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Orange-Walnut Russian Tea Cakes

Orange & Walnut Russian Tea Cakes | Set the Table

I have so many memories of lying in bed at night at the beginning of winter hoping that in the morning would bring a blanket of fresh snow. When it happened, there was an excitement that started deep in my belly and spread in excited tingles all the way to my finger tips. I always knew there was snow before even glancing out the window that there was snow because the light changed completely. It always felt new and fresh after weeks of golden autumn sun. The first snow of the season calls for something special. Hot chocolate for breakfast, cookies baking in the oven, and Christmas music on in the background. We had a day like that a while back, and I immediately took advantage by spending the morning making Orange-Walnut Russian Tea Cakes with my favorite little kitchen assistant.

Russian Tea Cakes with Pecans & Orange Zest

We also wore wintery sweaters. You can’t have a snow day without the proper attire, am I right?

Snow Day Cookies | Set the Table

My mom used to make Russian Tea Cake cookies around Christmas time and I remember the way the powdered sugar stuck to my fingers. Something about their snowball appearance made it seem like winter was officially official. I took my mom’s recipe and updated it a little with the addition of fresh, bright orange zest. The orange in combination with the walnuts combines all the wonderful things about winter in one tasty little cookie. They are easy for kids to help with and make the perfect introduction to holiday cookie baking season.

Russian Tea Cakes with Orange

Russian Tea Cake Making | Set the Table

Between the snowflakes floating softly outside the window and this sweet little boy helping me make sweet treats, this snow day was the best thing ever. I’m wishing extra hard for more days like this in the coming weeks. Continue Reading →

01. December 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Dessert, Kid Friendly | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Cinnamon Rubbed Roasted Turkey Breast

Cinnamon-Rubbed Roasted Turkey Breast | Set the Table

This has been one of those months that has been fast and slow at the same time. I feel a little bit like November has been here forever but when I write down the date I’m not sure how it got away from me so quickly. The leaves on our trees here are almost completely gone and we have gotten used to the annoying clanging of our old furnace, like we do every year, as it revs up, runs for a while and then turns off with a loud bang in our tiny house. Some of our neighbors have begun hanging their Christmas lights already. This is something I’m not used to seeing before Thanksgiving, but the holiday is so late in the month this year that I guess people just couldn’t wait. That’s OK with me since this time of year gets so brown and dull around Denver. The mountains are gorgeous, of course, but we need all the help we can get down here to make things look festive. I may not have all my holiday decorations hanging, but at least my house smells like the season. After making this cinnamon rubbed roasted turkey breast, it really felt like the holiday season around here.

Cinnamon Rubbed Turkey Breast | Set the Table

I’ve never been in charge of making the turkey for Thanksgiving. My dad took care of that as a kid and my husband typically tackles that challenge for us now. But this year, since we are spending the holiday as just our family of three in Crested Butte, I decided it was time to at least try my hand at roasting a turkey breast.

Here’s the truth: it’s easy. So very, very easy.

Cinnamon Rubbed Roasted Turkey Breast | Set the Table

I took inspiration from one of my favorite Greek dishes, chicken stewed in cinnamon, garlic and white wine, for this cinnamon rub. I love how the cinnamon adds a touch of unique flavor without compromising the flavor of the turkey itself. Plus, it makes the house smell incredible. There’s a little mingling of dessert-type of scents from the cinnamon with the savory smell of that crispy turkey skin everyone runs to taste before the turkey makes it to the dinner table.

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25. November 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Entertaining, Lunch & Dinner, No Added Sugar | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake

Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake Recipe

So Thanksgiving is in ONE WEEK. Just wanted to throw that out there. In case, you know, it slipped your mind or something. Also, cranberry pecan upside down cake. I mean, wowzers. Upside down cakes are pretty amazing in general, but this one is perfection. Tart cranberries, toasty brown sugar, and crunchy, buttery pecans make the perfect topping to a white cake batter that’s been spiced up with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. I don’t mind telling you that I’m eating a slice of this awesomeness as I type and I don’t feel bad about it.

I’ll feel bad about it at 3am when I’ve eaten my 5th Tums. Because pregnancy heartburn.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake | Set the Table

I’ve never been one of those people to proclaim what I’m thankful for each and every day during the month of November. I think it’s a wonderful thing when people do, I just have never been one of those people. This year, I’m trying to be different. I’m trying to spend more time every day looking for reasons to be thankful and happy. Lucky for me, I don’t have to look too far for those little things that make life sweeter.

No cake necessary.

But sometimes it helps. Continue Reading →

20. November 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Dessert, Entertaining | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Acorn Squash Polenta + Coconut & Spiced Brown Butter

Acorn Squash Coconut Polenta | Set the Table

I have a husband who doesn’t like potatoes. To be more accurate, he will eat them but probably won’t enjoy them very much. After growing up in a household where meat and potatoes happened weekly, mostly because my dad loved anything if it ended with “and potatoes”, this has been quite an adjustment for me. On the plus side, it’s given me a good reason to think of new, creative side dishes to serve in place of the humble potato. This acorn squash polenta is a new favorite at our house that works perfectly for the holiday season.  The coconut milk adds a little something new to a dish filled with traditional flavors and the spiced butter drizzled over the top makes it super special and festive.

Butter has a way of doing that to things.

Acorn Squash Polenta with Spiced Brown Butter | Set the Table

We are having a small Thanksgiving dinner this year. We are making one last pre-baby visit to Crested Butte, where we will roast a turkey breast (recipe for that coming tomorrow!), drink hot apple cider, and hopefully watch snow fall while sitting in front of a cozy fireplace. It’s going to be wonderful to have some quiet time in the mountains after what has been a month or two of insanity. It’s funny how life just tends to throw all the things at you in a very concentrated amount of time, isn’t it?

Acorn Squash Polenta | Set the Table

Not only will it be nice to unwind and refocus, it will also be wonderful to take one last trip together before our lives change dramatically. The closer we get to welcoming baby #2 into the world, the more acutely aware I am that our days as a family of 3 are quickly drawing to a close. I’m both excited and scared about that. There are so many things that I feel like we just figured out about being parents. I suppose the good news is that we have all survived and most likely will the second time around. Right? That plus we get to increase the amount of people to love in our lives. That’s going to be the best thing ever. Plus the baby snuggles. I’m banking on this one being a snuggler since our oldest never has been.

Other things that will be happening in Crested Butte: lots of Christmas music, sledding with daddy (don’t worry, I’ll be sitting out this year lest I be confused for a ginormous snow ball rolling down the hill), and lots of good food. I’m especially excited about the Crack Fries at Secret Stash. Yes.

No matter what you are doing for Thanksgiving, I know this acorn squash polenta will be a hit! It’s easy and fast to make and can feed small or large groups easily.

Bonus: it’s great leftover! Pile some in a bowl and top with your Thanksgiving leftovers in the days after the feast!

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19. November 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Entertaining, No Added Sugar, Sides + Condiments | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planning the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

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When I started this blog, I wanted to bring a little of the holiday magic that seems to surround us at the table amidst clinking glasses and forkfuls of delicious food. I realize that can be difficult to achieve in the midst of everyday life. Between errands, work, shuttling kids, and general exhaustion, finding the time to set the table and enjoy a real meal can be a challenge. Guess what? Those challenges (and perhaps more) are around during the holidays as well. And yet somehow, it all comes together and that magic makes itself known. I may not be able to take care of all the challenges you’re facing around this time of year, but I can offer some tips for planning the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.

Since I know we are all crunched for time, I’ll get right to it! Let’s start with putting together a prep schedule.

5 days before:

  • Finalize your menu
    • Decide exactly what you’ll be making and what others will bring.
  • Write your shopping list
  • Plan time for work and relaxation
    • A successful Thanksgiving begins and ends with a happy host. Take care of you!
  • Determine the wines/cocktails you’ll serve
    • A favorite this time of year is Beaujolais Nouveau. I am a fan of a clean, un-oaked chardonnay and a nice pinot noir.
    • If you will have beer lovers around, go for something local, if you can, featuring autumn flavors.
    • An easy and festive bourbon apple cider is perfect for a crowd!

Silly Cider Cocktail :: Set the Table

4 days before:

  • Do your grocery shopping
    • Get as much of your grocery shopping done as possible. You’ll save yourself from battling heavy crowds and avoid running into product shortages at the store.
    • Be sure to have kid-friendly beverages and snacks if you will have little ones at your Thanksgiving dinner
  • Purchase wine & beer
  • Start getting your dishes ready
    • make sure you have plenty of dishes, serving vessels, and flatware for your guests
    • polish wine glasses with a soft, lint-free cloth

3 days before:

  • Clean out the fridge! You’re gonna need plenty of space as you prepare for the big day!
  • Begin preparing your mis en place
    • I always try to get the heavy-duty chopping and mincing done a couple of days in advance. Things like onions that will be used in dressing/stuffing, gravy, etc, are great for chopping in advance. I also chop up my celery and carrots. (Garlic I save for just before I need to use it.)
    • If you’re chopping in advance, store the chopped veggies in gallon sized ziploc bags lined with a couple slightly damp paper towels. This will help keep your vegetables from turning brown or drying out.

2 days before:

  • Tidy up the house
    • There are four main areas that I think have to be clean before guests come over, and giving them a good scrubbing a couple days in advance means that the day of consists of simply picking up any clutter and doing a quick wipe-down before guests arrive. The four main areas to pay attention to are:
      • bathrooms
      • living area/wherever guests will be lounging and spending the most time
      • kitchen (this is mostly for you but also for guests who come wandering in wanting to help out)
      • entryway (make sure there is enough space for shoes if you have guests remove them, and places to hang coats)
  • Plan a kids’ table if necessary
    • An easy way to keep kids entertained is to line a table with big sheets of white paper. Set jars filled with crayons and sheets of stickers on the table and let kids get creative while the adults enjoy themselves!
      • I also like to make plate-sized circles on the paper with the kiddos’ names written in the center so everyone knows where to sit. They can also decorate their “place mats”.

1 day before:

  • OK, now it is time to do the lion’s share of the cooking. Here are the items I prepare the day before Thanksgiving:
    • pies (prepare up to the point of baking
    • bread for dressing/stuffing (cut it into cubes and store in a ziploc bag)
    • Sweet potato casserole (or twice baked sweet potatoes- yum!)
    • thaw/brine the turkey (VERY important to do in advance!)
  • Have take-out for dinner. We always have take-out Chinese food (this tradition goes way back to when I was a kid) so that we don’t produce a bunch of extra dishes.

Simple Autumn Table Setting | Set the Table

Thanksgiving Day:

  • Eat a good breakfast
  • Drink coffee + make a to-do list
  • Take a shower
  • Begin cooking the turkey
  • Finish preparing your dishes before guests arrive (if they can be baked ahead, go for it and just warm them up before serving)
  • Do as many dishes as possible before guests arrive
  • Get yourself gussied up and have a glass of wine!
  • Turn on some festive music like this playlist from Food52

And there you have it! This is my no-fail list to making sure you have everything done without feeling rushed. Overall, no matter when you do these tasks, don’t overdo it on any particular day. You want to enjoy Thanksgiving, not resent it! Take lots of deep breaths and know that your guests are happy to be with those they love and in a welcoming home. Beyond that, don’t sweat it. Everything will work out.

I’ve got 3 delicious Thanksgiving recipes coming your way this week that will help you plan your menu, so stay tuned!

 

 

18. November 2014 by Rachael White
Categories: Entertaining | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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