Ciao'd while watching Chopped Junior. Really?


Like so many cooks, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The pre-game starts a week or two before the holiday and with each day comes a task or two. Stir up the cranberry sauce and roll the pie crusts (freeze 'em). Chop vegetables for the dressing and bake off those pies. Before you know it, you've cruised into the day before the big day (yes, you can make your mashed potatoes the day before). Set the table. Stock the bar. Finally, the kick-off! Chill the wine. Bring the turkey to room temp, season it and stick it in the oven. Cue the seductive aroma that lures guests into the kitchen. We all know this. You can create a magnificent hors d'oeuvres presentation on the sideboard and a lovely selection on your bar cart but everybody slinks into the kitchen - and stays. It's a tailgate for the big game aka dinner. 

As time has tumbled the years, the years have tumbled me, too. Count the wrinkles. I used to insist on making EVERYTHING for Thanksgiving. The turkey. The dressing. The sideshows. The pies. Even the rolls, God help me. When family and friends asked, "What can I bring,?" it was all I could do to sputter, "Wine." 

But now I've seen the light. I've quarterbacked many a holiday but I've realized that there are some plays I dread. I am not a baker. The pie crusts know this and they always fight back, shrinking in the pie pan. I would rather not make the appetizers either, but I  realize that if I assign that task to a guest, she/he may arrive late and that is so not cool. Fumble in the end zone.

So here's my theory re: appetizers: If you are relegated to making the appetizers, you can always buy them (shout out to Trader Joe's stuffed mushrooms). If I were a bigger person, I would do the same. You can serve shrimp cocktail (and you should) and maybe even a crudité platter for those guests who refuse to cast aside their CrossFit and Paleo diets.  

Hear me on this, though. While the turkey is roasting, the football games are toasting. That means a dip. That means a time-honored dip. And yes, my teammates, that means Onion Dip. Sure, you can opt for the soup mix based dip, no judgment, but why not make it from scratch? It's super easy and yes, you'll exalt in the applause from the spectators. After all, isn't this what playing for a crowd is all about? 

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This onion dip is "honest" because it's homemade and "good" because it's downright delish. Its sweet caramelized flavor and sinfully creamy texture make this dip irresistible. If you have the time, refrigerate it overnight and the flavors will sing even more harmoniously. Serve with potato chips, crackers, or vegetables.

Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Dash (or more) of hot sauce
Chopped chives, for garnish

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onions, a generous dash of salt, and the thyme and sautéuntil just beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and golden brown, another 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the onions to a bowl and let cool.

Add the sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice to the onions and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste. Garnish with the chives.  

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Ciao'd while watching Monday Night Football. This recipe inspired by
the gold and green Green Bay Packers. I am a G-Men Fan. Sorry Aaron. 

I posted this photo on Instagram and received messages from lots of you asking for the recipe (thank you!). I shot the photo before I baked the pizza which made the requests that much more interesting. Then I thought, "It's the holidays and other people - I'm not the only one! - are pining for a healthy dose of simplicity in the midst of the seasonal excess." Often, the only green we see during this party season is that of Christmas trees and wreaths. With this pesto pizza, we can have our green and eat it, too. 

You've got carte blanche to vary the ingredients in this recipe. Prefer broccoli rabe to broccoli? Go for it. Feel like adding red onion? Do it! A sprinkle of basil, a dash of oregano, a drizzle of olive oil. This pizza has personal expression written all over it. 



Two 8-inch prepared pizza crusts (I used Vicolo cornmeal crust) or one large crust
2 cups broccoli florets, larger florets halved
One 6.5-ounce jar prepared basil pesto
One 8-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry
2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella
1 cup fresh ricotta
Red pepper flakes, optional.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the broccoli florets in a microwaveable dish. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of water, cover, and microwave until just tender (about 3 minutes). Drain and pat dry.

Spread the pesto on the pizza crust, dividing evenly. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella over the pesto. Place the broccoli florets and artichokes on the cheese, dividing evenly. Top with the remaining mozzarella. Dollop the ricotta over the mozzarella. Sprinkle with the red pepper, if using.

Bake until the cheese is melted and the crust is lightly browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before slicing. 


I’m pretty much halfway through my life and I can say without hesitation that one of my greatest accomplishments thus far is learning the art of watching football.  Natch, it comes second to the triumphs that are my sons and my marriage but not by that much. It was a hard labor, the football thing. 

I grew up in a family of five women (four daughters and my mom) with a dad who was not interested in sports except for...


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