Meet the Sullivans: November 2011

November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend

Am I really just now posting about our Thanksgiving? I feel like Thanksgiving is already a distant memory, but really it was just a little over a week ago. You see, I have come to realize that being pregnant makes me much less productive than I used to be. Between going to bed around eight o'clock and moving so much slower I am losing hours each day. I don't have the pregnant waddle, but getting up and sitting down takes serious maneuvering these days. Anyway, that is my excuse for this tardy Thanksgiving post.

We spent the early part of the day with family at my mother-in-laws before heading over to my grandpa's to see my side of the family. I made three appetizers and one dessert. It wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving to me if I didn't get to contribute!
I made this Artichoke Dip with Fontina, which I will share with you this week. It was amazing.

I also made these Caprese Skewers, which I will also share later.

When I asked Keith what appetizer he wanted me to make he suggested Salami Roll-Ups. Not much of a recipe, but it is his favorite (and they're darn good), so we made it. My niece Natalie put it all together for us. She is an awesome niece!

Sister Kathee and Keith chatting at my grandpa's before dinner (so apparently this is the only non-food photo I took on Thanksgiving).

The dessert! I made Almost-Famous Pumpkin Cheesecake for dessert. It was wonderful! You can get the recipe and see step-by-step photos here.

For the past 5 or more years we've gone with Keith's family on the day after Thanksgiving to cut down trees. Here are 7 out of our 9 nieces and nephews. I still think of them as "the kids", but they're all growing up so fast!

Proud moms and grandma taking the pictures.

We hunted high and low for a worthy Christmas tree. Here are Natalie and Keith searching.

Amanda, Natalie and Holly in front of the old barn on the tree farm.

The family shooting videos and taking pictures of the first tree being cut down.

That was, on to Christmas season!

Almost-Famous Pumpkin Cheesecake

I was put in charge of bringing dessert to my grandpa's house for Thanksgiving this year. My sister, Kathee, usually claims dessert before I even think of it, but this year she let me have it. Thanks Kath! This recipe for pumpkin cheesecake is from Food Network Magazine. It was adapted and inspired by the Cheesecake Factory's pumpkin cheesecake recipe, which we've had before and loved. This was my first attempt at making cheesecake and I am very happy with the way it turned out. 
Almost-Famous Pumpkin Cheesecake

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 9 hours 
Cook Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Makes 12 servings 

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 3/4 cups sugar
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
6 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups sweetened whipped cream
1/3 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped (optional)  

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush a 10-inch springform pan with some of the butter.

 Stir the remaining butter with the crumbs, 1/4 cup of the sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl.

Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, packing it tightly and evenly. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack, then wrap the outside of the springform pan with foil and place in a roasting pan. 

*I skipped the roasting pan part (I was baking at my mom's house and couldn't find her's), but learned about halfway through baking the cheesecale to put the springform pan on a cookie sheet so the butter won't drip into the bottom of the oven. 

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups sugar and beat until just light, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters as needed.

Beat in the sour cream, then add the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt and the spices and beat until just combined.

Pour into the cooled crust. 

This is my "cooled crust" pre-filling. As you can see the crust began to crumble a bit on the sides, which at first made me think I was failing, but it turned out fine. Once the cake was cooled it didn't matter.

Place the filled springfoam pan on a cookie sheet and gently place in the oven. Bake until the outside of the cheesecake sets but the center is still loose, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the door briefly to let out some heat. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 more hour, then carefully remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Run a knife around the edges, cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. 

Bring the cheesecake to room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Unlock and remove the springform ring. To finish, place a dollop of the whipped cream on each slice and sprinkle with the toasted pecans, if you'd like. 

I always thought cheesecake would be too complicated to make, but it was so much easier (and fool proof!) than I had originally thought. My sister Kathee can tell you how I almost threw the whole thing out after the crust crumbled and the oven started smoking from the butter that was leaking through the springform pan. BUT, in the end it turned out FANTASTICALLY and my whole family enjoyed this dessert and I am so happy with how it turned out!

November 19, 2011

Balsamic Grilled Bruschetta Chicken

This is another recipe I've been meaning to share for a while (like since September!). I found it on Picky Palate. What caught my attention was that it seemed fresh and simple (you know I love that) and it ended up being very good.
Balsamic Grilled Bruschetta Chicken
For a printer-friendly version click here. 

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Pinch of salt
¼ Cup balsamic vinegar
¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil
8 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
4 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and diced
8 fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced into chiffonade (long strips)
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat a grill pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Spray with cooking spray. Combine balsamic and olive oil in a bowl. Season both sides of chicken with pinches of salt and place on grill. Brush top sides of chicken with balsamic mixture. Cook for 4-5 minutes and flip chicken. Brush with additional balsamic and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. During the last 2 minutes of grilling place 2 slices of cheese over top each chicken to melt.

2. In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, basil garlic, salt and balsamic. Toss gently to combine. Place chicken breasts on a serving plate and top with tomato mixture. Serve warm.

There is also a way to modify the recipe and make these into sandwiches, so follow the link if that sounds interesting to you. Next time we'll have to try it that way! 

November 13, 2011

Shrimp Avocado Tostada

Not exactly a Fall, cold weather dinner, but don't these look great? I've been holding onto this recipe for weeks and weeks now. The original recipe comes from Chef Mommy. I changed a few ingredients (subbed the refried beans for black refried) and simplified it by using premade pico de gallo salsa and guacamole.
Shrimp Avocado Tostada


4 whole Small Corn Tortillas
Olive oil cooking spray

1 package pre-made guacamole
1 whole Lime, Juiced
½ pounds Medium Sized Shrimp, Peeled And De-veined
1 teaspoon Cayenne
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 cup Refried Beans (I used black refried beans)
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup pre-made pico de gallo salsa


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until tortillas are crispy. Turn tortillas over half way through. Remove from oven and keep warm.

Prepare the refried beans according to can directions and keep warm.

In a medium size bowl, toss the shrimp with the cayenne and garlic powder as well as salt and pepper. Saute in a medium skillet over medium heat with 2 Tablespoons canola oil for 2-3 minutes on each side until shrimp are pink and cooked. Remove from pan, drizzle with lime juice and keep warm. Wipe pan down with a paper towel and a little more oil (1 tsp). Cook corn until slightly charred (3-4 minutes).

Spread the 1/4 cup of refried beans on top of each tortilla. Sprinkle on the charred corn. Spread a layer of the mashed avocado mixture on top. Top the mashed avocado with the pico de gallo. Finish with a few shrimp. Season with salt and pepper if needed and garnish with cilantro.

November 9, 2011

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

We love twice baked potatoes, but they can be so much work with all the baking and cooling and mixing and scooping and re-stuffing. I like simple recipes. I want to be able to enjoy what I've cooked and sometimes its hard to do that after all the prep and cleaning. That is why I was so drawn to this Paula Deen recipe--it allows for the same great flavor combos with much less work!
Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

2 (24-ounce) packages refrigerated Simply Potatoes Traditional Mashed Potatoes
½ (8-ounce) package Philadelphia Cream Cheese
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
3½ cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast, divided
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup chopped green onion, divided
1 (12-ounce) package fresh broccoli florets, divided
6 slices Smithfield Naturally Hickory Smoked Bacon, cooked, crumbled, and divided

1. Preheat oven to 375ยบ. Grease a 13x9-inch baking dish. Peel back film at corner of each package of potatoes to vent. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, cream cheese, and pepper; beat at medium speed with a mixer until combined. Stir in 1¾ cups chicken, 1 cup cheese, 2/3 cup green onion, half of broccoli, and half of crumbled bacon. Spread mixture in prepared dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1¾ cups chicken, remaining broccoli, remaining bacon, and remaining 1 cup cheese.

3. Cover and bake for 45 minutes or until cheese melts and casserole is heated through. Top with remaining 1/3 cup green onion.

November 6, 2011

31 Weeks Down, 9 to Go!

Wow! Its hard to believe that we're in the home stretch and we'll soon be meeting our little one! I haven't done a pregnancy update post in a while, so I think its definitely time to share what's been happening.

Here's a look a what the baby might be looking like this week:
Image from  

I love to look at these photos of what the baby looks like in there. It seems like the baby is growing faster and faster every week! 

How Far Along: 31 Weeks--only 9 weeks left! 

Size of baby: 16 inches long and about 3.3 pounds.

Total Weight Gain/Loss: According to my doctor I'm right on track and so is baby.

Maternity Clothes: Leggings have become my best friend, I wear them all. the. time.

Gender: We have a boy name and a girl name ready for our little one. Here's a little hint, Baby Sullivan will soon have the initials OES or EES, but that is all I'm sharing! 

Movement: This is a very busy baby! As I type this I can feel the tiny rhythmic movements of a baby with the hiccups. Sometime the baby moves so much and so strongly that it becomes a bit uncomfortable.

Sleep: I'm sleeping really well. I wake up a few times a night to use the bathroom, but I always fall right back to sleep (what blessing!).

What I miss: I have to admit I am looking forward to having a glass of wine again, and oysters and blue cheese and sushi.

Cravings: Fruit and milkshakes (a new development). 

Symptoms: Heartburn is back, but otherwise I feel pretty good.

Best Moment This Week: Checking one more week off until we meet our baby!
This week we started watching this labor and delivery video recommended to us by my doctor. Its been informing and pretty funny at the same time. Its called Laugh and Learn About Childbirth and the humor reminds me of a Saturday Night Live skit where they're mocking labor and delivery classes. I could definitely see Kristen Wiig playing Sheri Bayles! Next week we're going to our infant care class!