renee nicole says

hi! i'm renee.

blogger, wine enthusiast, amateur photographer, long distance runner, book reader, music appreciator.

chicago born and raised.

my husband and i welcomed our baby girl to the world in february.

here you'll find some things i like.
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Posts tagged "recipes"

yesterday we gathered with friends to watch an embarrassing display of football and some mediocre commercials and eat lots and lots of dip. 

I was charged with bringing dessert so I said I’d bring cookies. I decided to take it a step further and the results were pretty mind-blowingly delicious. 

Funfetti Cookie Dough Dip

  • 1 stick butter, softened at room temp
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. milk (add slowly until you get desired consistency)
  • Sprinkles

The butter MUST be soft and room temperature! So before you start, make sure of that. In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in vanilla and salt. Add flour, mix to combine. Keep mixer on low, add in milk slowly, just a bit at a time, until the dough reaches the consistency you like. I preferred mine to be firm like cookie dough but not too stiff that it wasn’t dippable. Remove from mixer, add in sprinkles. Chill until ready to serve. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

  • 1 stick butter, softened at room temp
  • 1 8oz cream cheese, softened at room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T white sugar
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/4 c. milk (add slowly until you get desired consistency)
  • mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

The butter and cream cheese MUST be at room temp, otherwise you’ll get a chunky buttery cream cheese gloopy mess. Cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth and combined. Add in vanilla and salt. Add the sugars and then the flour, mix to combine. Slowly add in milk until it has a dippable consistency - you may not need it all. Remove from mixer, add in chocolate chips. Chill until ready to serve. 

I served both dips with Nilla wafers, animal crackers, strawberries, pretzels and chocolate teddy grahams. I think I preferred the pretzels, but I like that sweet/salty combo. The options are endless! 

Now would it be inappropriate to eat the leftovers for breakfast?

horrible pic, DELICIOUS MEAL. don’t be deterred by my lacking iphone photo skillz. this recipe is the real deal. 

i made tacos on friday night after picking up a pork shoulder at the farmer’s market. i followed this recipe using the slow cooker and it turned out superb. 

saturday night i wanted to use up leftovers but wasn’t feeling tacos again. enter the burrito bowl. 

i sauteed butternut squash, black beans and pre-roasted corn in the skillet. sprinkled a little garlic powder and cumin, salt and pepper. nothing fancy. then i cooked 1 cup of quinoa, and threw it all together in a bowl a la chipotle style. topped with green hot sauce (staple in our house) and fat free greek yogurt. oh and shredded taco cheese obviously.

(ps. i used the butternut squash mixture to make a breakfast burrito the next day and you should definitely go that route too.)

in the summer, i attempt to stay healthy by eating salad after salad. in the cooler months, i just can’t get on board with cold food. i crave warm bowls of comfort food and my fave healthy option is the garden vegetable soup from potbelly’s (only 110 calories per bowl!). 

i’ve recreated it and stocked the freezer, thankfully because it was a ton of prep! 

12 veggie soup

(serves a LOT - enough for 4 bowls for dinner and 4 medium-sized gladware containers for the freezer)


  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 large celery stalks, leaves removed, diced
  • 1/2 quart of tomatoes (1 large can), chopped
  • 3 boxes low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 bag of washed/prepped green beans
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 box mushrooms, sliced and roughly chopped
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 can northern white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • dried herbs: parsley, basil, thyme, oregano & crushed bay leaves
  • salt & pepper
  • rind of parmesan cheese (if you have it on hand)

saute onions and leeks until translucent. add garlic, saute until fragrant. throw in carrots and celery, cook until soft. add stock, tomatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, corn, beans and zucchini. add herbs - use your best judgement, i just sprinkled them in but i’d say stick to a teaspoon of each and go easy on the bay leaves and oregano. salt and pepper to taste. throw in parmesan rind to deepen the flavor.

simmer for a couple hours. remove parmesan rind before serving.

serve with this skillet cornbread

the prep takes a while but it’s worth it! 

simple luxury

arugula, roasted beets & burrata. drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil, salt & pepper. voila.

so yesterday, after finishing three bowls of soup for lunch (not kidding, it’s that good! and hey i’m eating for two), i decided i needed something sweet.

i picked up a box of oatmeal raisin cookies this morning from the bakery section at dominicks but was wholly displeased with their non-chewy texture. so i decided to make my own! i didn’t have any raisins, so i used dried blueberries. then i threw in white chocolate chips and pecans, because, well… why not.

you guys, this recipe (which i adapted from smitten kitchen) is my new go-to for oatmeal cookies. perfectly flat and chewy with crispy edges. 

makes 2 dozen cookies


  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 chopped pecans (optional)


preheat oven to 350 degrees. cream together butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. add in flour, baking soda and salt, mix well. add oats and the rest of the ingredients. 

scoop onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper - heaping tablespoon sized. i opted not to chill the dough first, because i wanted a flatter cookie. if you want a thick cookie, stick in the fridge or freezer for a few hours before baking. 

bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are just about browned and the middle doesn’t look gooey. allow to cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. 

also, if you are not baking cookies on parchment paper, you’re definitely doing it wrong. 

inspired by georgina, i’m going to try to make a new recipe every week - with the goal to create some freezer-friendly meals that can be reheated after the baby arrives. 

today’s recipe: creamy chicken tortellini soup with kale

i made this for lunch today and it was so delicious and comforting. as i was eating it i kept thinking it would be the perfect feel-good soup for someone with a cold, which seems to be going around lately!

the one thing i would change about the original recipe is to wait to add the chicken. by the time i was ready to eat, the chicken had cooked down to a very shredded and almost mushy consistency. my suggestion would be to add it when you add the kale and cream. other than that, it’s fantastic. don’t skip the grated parmesan on top! 

this year for thanksgiving, jason and i were in charge of the turkey and stuffing. i had made a turkey before, but we really wanted to knock it out of the park with this one… so we set out to produce the juiciest, most flavorful roast turkey ever. 

after crowdsourcing and reading through various articles and recipes, we decided that it was imperative that we brine first, then roast. 

we started the process on wednesday afternoon, making the brine and cleaning the turkey. this was jason’s first intimate experience with a raw turkey… so you can see my little brother’s arm halfway in there searching for the neck because my husband is such a big baby. 

after our brine cooled, we dumped everything into a garbage bag (triple bagged), sealed it up tightly so the brine covered the turkey, and set it in the fridge to soak in all the flavors overnight. 

the next day, we got the bird ready for the oven with an herb butter rubbed all over and under the skin, filled the cavity with aromatics and the bottom of the pan with veggies. 

then we waited! 

a few hours later… the perfectly roasted bird emerged. 

we let the bird sit for about 45 minutes to an hour so all the juices could set in. 

then his dad taught jason how to carve it up! 

and finally… we were ready to eat! 

read the full recipe and directions after the jump!

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friday night: cousins get-together

most of us live in chicago, so why don’t we do this more often?? i’m on a mission to rectify that. 

i took a page from jordan's book and served a pumpkin dip crudites platter. minimal effort (ok, maybe a little arm-strength to carve off the pumpkin top) but looks impressive and pinterest-worthy. 

i also served crostinis with goat cheese, truffle honey and thyme. simple and delicious. and no party is complete without buffalo chicken dip and sweet+spicy asian meatballs. 

seasonal brews: shocktop pumpkin wheat, angry orchard hard cider and approx 7 bottles of red wine rounded out the evening quite nicely. 

this soup is velvety and creamy and pretty much embodies the essence of fall in a perfect little bowl. the addition of the apple gives its a tart-sweetness and obviously the sage deepens the fall flavors. this is my favorite winter soup - i always like to keep a few servings in the freezer… but somehow it doesn’t seem to last very long!


  • 3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, scooped out and cubed (i prefer the pre-cut packages that you can find at trader joe’s - time lifesaver!)
  • 2 honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 T. freshly chopped sage
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock 
  • 3 T. creme fraiche
  • 1 c. freshly grated parmeggiano reggiano
  • fried sage on top


melt the butter in a large stockpot or dutch oven. saute onions and apples in the butter until onions are translucent and apples are somewhat soft. add in the garlic, stir up until fragrant, just a few minutes. add in the butternut squash, saute a bit and scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom, add in the sage, stir then cover. cook for about 10 minutes, allowing the squash to soften up.

pro tip: salt and pepper when adding each ingredient. s + p the onions and apples, then add more s + p when you add in the squash. adding seasoning at each step with help layer the flavors and result in a more flavorful final product.

add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. cook until the squash is fork-tender. remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit. 

in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. i used a 2nd stock pot to hold the pureed soup while finishing up each batch (as opposed to mixing it in with the un-pureed batches). once it’s all smooth, return to your original pot. 

stir in creme fraiche and parmeggiano reggiano. taste, add more s + p if needed. 

serve with a swirl of creme fraiche and fried sage leaves on top. 

for the fried sage: in a small sauce pan, heat the butter until bubbly. add in the sage - fry for less than one minute, swirling the pan continuously, until the sage is crispy. pour into a strainer or on a paper towel to remove excess butter. 


see more from our fall dinner party.

this pizza is the perfect balance of flavor and texture. sweetness from the grapes, flavor from the garlic and shallots, creaminess from the goat cheese, saltiness from the pancetta. the brussels sprouts are the star, they crisp up on the top and add a lovely crunch. 

i was inspired by two different pizzas and combined them to make this masterpiece - the brussels sprouts pizza from balena and the roasted red grape + tallegio pizza from la madia


  • 1 ready-made pizza crust (trader joe’s are my fave!)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 15-18 brussels sprouts, leaves pulled off, hearts sliced and chopped
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 10-12 small red grapes
  • 1/2 c. pancetta, diced and cooked
  • 1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 c. mozzarella cheese
  • freshly grated parmeggiano reggiano
  • s + p


preheat oven to 375. 

roll your pizza dough out to the desired thickness. i prefer a thin crust - a secret is to add more flour on your board and rolling pin while rolling it out. i shaped it into a long baking sheet, ungreased.

mix your olive oil and garlic. brush or spoon over the dough. 

add the shallots, grapes, pancetta and goat cheese. sprinkle mozzarella over the whole thing, then add the sprout leaves. grate with parmesan over the top, then s + p. 

cook at 375 for about 15 minutes - watching closely as the leaves will start to brown.  this makes them delicious, but don’t overdo it! cook until the cheese is melted and the grapes get a little wrinkly. 

make this for the angels and they will SING. i promise. 

see more from our fall dinner party.

last night, i hosted a little fall-inspired dinner party for a few of my favorites ladies. something about fall makes me want to entertain… the harvest flavors, the chilly nights, the impending holidays. i love it!

the menu

appetizers: cheese plate (herbed boursin, manchego, pub cheddar) + red grapes
soup: butternut squash, apple + sage soup
salad: mixed greens with pears, cranberries, blue cheese + candied pecans
pizza: brussel sprouts, shallots, red grapes, pancetta + goat cheese
dessert: homemade apple-cider caramels, mini pumpkin praline cheesecakes
beverages: mark west pinot noir, pumpkin wheat beer, booze-free cider

this pizza was… if i do say so, AH-mazing. i was inspired by a recent meal at balena - but i think i may even like this one better! 

my first candy-making attempt was also a big success! when i saw these caramels on smitten kitchen yesterday, i knew it would be the perfect halloween treat. 

i went to bed feeling very lucky to have such smart, strong women in my life. i admire each of them in different ways, and i’m constantly surprised by the conversations we have, and the ways we help each other. as i embark on this new  journey into uncharted territories, i am even more grateful to have them to lean on and learn from. 

needless to say, it was a really great night. 

recipes to follow! 

this is one of jason’s favorite dinners. he loves casseroles! which is fine by me because it works great for leftovers (which means less meals to cook during the week). this one has been a standard in our rotation for years. 

mexican lasagna

makes one 9x13 pan (i actually made 2 small ones so i could freeze one)


  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 lb. extra lean ground turkey
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • 1 15oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa (i use one of the medium variety for kick)
  • 1 small can of sweet corn
  • 1 can of black beans, drained
  • 1 small can of diced green chilis
  • your favorite hot sauce (optional)
  • 8-10 large flour tortillas, halved or quartered so they fit in the pan
  • 1 pkg shredded mexican cheese
  • sour cream (or plain greek yogurt), avocado, extra hot sauce


preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray your pan with PAM. 

saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent. add in ground turkey, cook through. sprinkle taco seasoning over turkey just before done. add in tomato sauce, salsa, green chilis, black beans, corn and hot sauce (if desired). simmer to blend all of the flavors. 

begin with a layer of tortillas on the bottom of the pan. add cheese, then top with a layer of the meat mixture. repeat: tortillas, cheese, meat mixture. when you reach the top, layer with just tortillas and cheese on the very top. 

cover with aluminum foil, bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. remove foil near the end to brown the cheese on top. 

serve with fat free greek yogurt (or sour cream) and avocado, and extra hot sauce if you like! 

pro tip: it’s even better the next day 

this weekend: two (food) things.


the photo on the left depicts one of the most delicious sandwiches i’ve ever made: havarti, thinly sliced honeycrisp apples and crispy bacon. on buttered whole wheat bread and grilled to perfection.

served with a lemon-orzo-chicken soup - this meal made a dreary rainy sunday pretty fantastic. 


my brother stayed with me this weekend while my dad and j were off racing their cars around in the rain. (don’t ask.)

we were getting pretty stir crazy after two straight days of rain - we finished an entire walking dead marathon in time for last night’s season premiere, we messed around with some new smartphone-controlled helicopters he got and exhausted our playstation games EVEN while playing on the 3D tv.

i was at a loss, so i got out my computer to look at baby things. (per usual.) i didn’t notice kyle rummaging around in the cupboards until he came over with his hands full of sprinkles containers that i didn’t even know i had. “want to make some cookies?” he asked. i tried to contain my surprise and said “sure!”

at thirteen, he’s still this little kid but on the verge of being a disgruntled teenager. i like it when the little kid side comes out for a while… i have a feeling these moments are not going to last for much longer. 

thursday evenings.

jason works late and doesn’t get home until around 9:30pm, so i either make plans with girlfriends or tackle a recipe i’ve bookmarked to try. my sister is typically more than happy to be my official taste tester, as she gloats on the couch with her glass of wine. 

i haven’t had any super strange cravings during this pregnancy, but i have wanted comfort food… all the time, comfort food. the onset of fall doesn’t help with this craving, but who cares! nothing is better. 

last week, the dish was butternut squash risotto with fried sage.

(adapted from bon appetit)


  • 3 T. butter
  • 4 c. 1/2 inch cubes of butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
  • s + p
  • 6-8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. chopped shallots
  • 1 T. finely chopped sage
  • 1/2 tsp. finely chopped thyme
  • 2 c. arborio rice
  • 1/3 c. dry white wine
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 T. roughly chopped sage
  • 1/2 c. freshly grated parmigiano reggiano


in a large skillet, melt butter. add squash, sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper.  saute for a few minutes, then cover until squash are tender, stirring occasionally. uncover, saute until browned and caramelized but still holding shape. remove from skillet, set aside. 

in a medium saucepan, heat chicken stock to a simmer.

in the same large skillet, heat oil and add shallots. saute until edges are brown, add in sage and thyme. add rice, saute until kernels are white with translucent edges. add wine, stir until it evaporates.

add 1 cup of broth, simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. continue adding 1 cup of broth at a time, simmering and stirring until the liquid is gone. after about 6 cups of broth have been added, test the rice - it should be tender (not crunchy) and the risotto will be creamy.  if not, keep adding until you reach the desired consistency. the process will take 20-30 minutes. 

when the rice is done, stir in the butternut squash and grated parmesan cheese. before serving, top with fried sage and more parmesan. 

for the fried sage: in a small sauce pan, heat the butter until bubbly. add in the sage - fry for less than one minute, swirling the pan continuously, until the sage is crispy. pour into a strainer or on a paper towel to remove excess butter. 


this week, the menu was inspired by fall and this recipe that has been making the internet rounds: skillet squash mac n’ cheese.

 (adapted from how sweet eats)


  • 1 pkg. (4 cups) frozen cooked + pureed butternut squash
  • 3 c. pasta of choice (i used mostacioli rigata)
  • s + p 
  • 1 tsp. dried rubbed sage
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 c. shredded monterrey jack-cheddar cheese 
  • 1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c. skim milk
  • 3 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 T. fried sage (see recipe above)
  • 2 T. panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheese for topping (i used a mixture of mozzarella, asiago, fontina, parmesan)


preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

cook the pasta accordingly.  add the frozen butternut squash to a cast-iron skillet (or other oven safe skillet). cover, heat on low until heated through. add salt, pepper, rubbed sage, nutmeg and garlic powder. add in shredded cheese and parmesan cheese, skim milk and melted butter. stir until you have a smooth consistency. if it seems to thick, add a bit more milk. 

when the pasta is finished, add the pasta to the skillet and stir to combine. make the fried sage (see above) and sprinkle over the pasta - this time i just poured the extra butter with it - your choice! top with bread crumbs and additional shredded cheese. 

bake in the oven until heated through and cheese is melted.  to get a crispy browned topping, broil on low for about 5 minutes. 

enjoy, try not to devour the entire skillet in one sitting. 

oh and because my pan was overflowing a bit and i thought it was cute, i made these two ramekins with the extras. popped in the oven tomorrow for lunch, perfect! 

and please don’t ask me to choose between these two dishes… i could never. 

i woke up this morning to a gray sky and a grateful heart because fall is on the way. i decided to commemorate this feeling with my first fall recipe of the season.

pumpkin pecan streusel muffins 

makes 8 large muffins 


  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. chopped pecans


  • 3/4 c. oats
  • 1/2 T. flour
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 3 T. cold butter, chopped

preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

in another bowl, mix together both sugars, egg, pumpkin, oil, water and vanilla. blend together until smooth. 

add dry ingredients to wet ingredients to incorporate, fold in pecans. 

in a small bowl, mix oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. add butter, press together with your fingers until mixture is crumbly. 

grease a large muffin tin, fill tins completely with the muffin batter, top with streusel and a few pecans. 

bake at 350 degrees for 12-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

serve with hot coffee on a crisp fall morning.