April Recap

Happy spring! I’m loving these warm and sunny days. I don’t hate the cool days. They’re like one last chance to wear a sweater or to eat cold-weather-food.

April has been good to me. Work is pretty busy with a big event right around the corner. I’m so thankful that I’m not crazy and at my wit’s end, like I have been for years at this point before my May events. It is so great to have this job. Although it is busy, I still have energy for getting to the gym, and making meals…so some of the meals are focused on quick and springy ideas.

Parisian Burger was hands down the best recipe I’ve made in a loooong time. Rosemary, garlic, mustard, truffle mayo, an egg, and arugula were unbelievable for this burger.
The Three Bite Rule - Parisian Burger

I hadn’t made breakfast in awhile so I came up with Chunky Monkey Pancakes with chocolate chunks, banana, and walnuts.
The Three Bite Rule - Chunky Monkey Pancakes
It had been wayyy too long since I shared a book for foodies. I didn’t looove this one, but I thought it was interesting. It got me drinking more water…well, the book or my fitbit person icon.
The Three Bite Rule - Book: French Women Don't Get Fat
I also made a Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta that was full of flavor.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
I whipped up a few calzones, but the sausage and pepper calzone was the better of the two. I’m glad I used some different cheeses. It’s a good reminder how to tweak or make some changes to keep a calzone feeling fresh and different.
The Three Bite Rule - Sausage & Peppers Calzone
April was definitely a busy month of work, a weekend to Maine, and some yard work. There are some bulbs popping up and my chives are already thriving. We have some grand plans for the yard. Mr. J is making a compost bin and I’m psyched. We definitely need better soil and I’m glad to put those coffee grounds to better use. Just you wait to see the pics of it….very impressive.

In terms of my goals: 
Buy myself flowers more often - The Year of having-more-flowers featured daffodils for April and some in the ground are sprouting! #totallycounts
send more mail – one card came back in the mail, but 3 birthday cards made it to their destinations this month!
make some Pinterest pins a reality 
cook with yeast (yikes!)
try a spin class
make more cocktails – I made one for bfast with white hot chocolate, some reduced coffee syrup, and Bailey’s but it wasn’t feeling photo worthy…should I post it? Then, not quite a cocktail, but I did buy some blood orange Italian soda this month and it has been an ahhh-mazing change from water We also inherited a cra-zy amount of milk at Easter so the focus has been milk, milk, milk! I enjoyed a blood orange margarita so I guess that counts, even if I didn’t make it myself.

follow me on insta @emilyran to see how often I post puppies, food, and flowers. See ya in May!

Bruschetta Burgers

I really shouldn’t exhaust all my burger toppings before Mr. J’s bday in June. I always make a special never-before-had burger and I just made this Parisian Burger which was unbelievable. Now a rockstar bruschetta topped burger? How am I gonna top this one too? Seriously. I’m asking. How am I gonna come up with a special one in June?

The Three Bite Rule - Bruschetta Burger

Ingredients:

1/2 pound ground beef, chicken, turkey
2 burger buns
sea salt & black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic, chopped
6-8 fresh basil leaves, rolled up and chopped chiffonade
tomato, chopped
1 tsp Italian Dressing
2 slices fresh mozzarella
3 tbs mayo
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Heat the grill, or grill pan.
Mix the ground meat with a teaspoon of the chopped basil, garlic, salt and pepper.

The Three Bite Rule - Bruschetta Burger
Form into two patties.
Grill the burgers.
While burgers are cooking, mix together the tomato, basil, and salad dressing.

The Three Bite Rule - Bruschetta Burger
Mix together the mayo and balsamic.
Top the burgers on the grill with the mozzarella until melted.
Assemble the burgers with bruschetta topping and spread balsamic mayo onto the bun.

The Three Bite Rule - Bruschetta Burger
I loved this burger. I used ground chicken which cooked perfectly. It was juicy and the tomato and basil are a perfect match. The mozzarella stretched as far as a bite could take it, and the mayo had this fantastic tang. It was such an easy burger theme for anytime.

Leftover basil? Use it for creamy tomato basil pasta, or white bean and basil dip/spread, or strawberry basil sangria, or caprese stuffed chicken.

Any burger topping ideas I haven’t tried yet?

What I Ate: Taco Pizza

What I Ate’ is a series of posts for so-easy-this-doesn’t-need-a-recipe but I’m sharing with you for the idea or inspiration.

Add one to the successful pizza-dough alternatives! Making pizza on a tortilla is super easy and is like instant pizza. This is suuuuch a fast pizza and was a great use for a few small leftovers. I had a very small amount of ground chicken in the freezer and a few tortillas hanging around. It had tacos written all over it, but then I figured open faced tacos are taco pizza! This could adapt pretty easily to quesadilla pizza as a stacked tortilla: cheese: tortilla: cheese: toppings. I went lighter (and easier).

The Three Bite Rule - Taco Pizza

It was a hit and definitely didn’t seem like the burrito ingredients that had been dinner before.

Ingredients:

1/4 pound ground chicken/pork/turkey/beef
1 tbs taco seasoning (or a mix of dried garlic, chili powder, cumin & black pepper)
1 cup refried beans
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
2-3 8″ tortillas
1 tomato
1-2 sprigs of green onion
salsa

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees.
Heat a flat pan to medium heat.
Brown the ground meat, drain, and add taco seasoning.
The Three Bite Rule - Taco Pizza
While the meat is cooking, bake the tortillas on a baking sheet for 2 minutes on each side just to get a tiny bit crunchy so the toppings don’t make it soggy.
Then spread on the refried beans and a sprinkle of taco seasoning.
The Three Bite Rule - Taco Pizza
Add the cheese, ground meat, chopped tomatoes.
The Three Bite Rule - Taco Pizza
Bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese melts and the tortilla gets crunchy.
Sprinkle with green onions and salsa. Slice, and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Taco Pizza
The beans on here absolutely take it from basic quesadilla to the next level. This taco pizza is a super quick dinner and uses such a small amount of ground meat. This is leftover central at it’s finest. The remaining refried beans can easily freeze until the next burrito/taco pizza time. The crispy tortilla is great and it fulfilled my “need” for Mexican.

You could top this with any cheese you had around (Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, mozzarella, a mixture) , any veggies you have around (like corn, green peppers, green chili, etc), and top with any taco fillers you choose (like sour cream, black beans, avocado, guacamole, etc). The possibilities are endless and are an easy build-your-own.

This is dinner in 30 minutes, without running around like Rachael Ray.

I have made taco pizza as a regular pizza which was awesome, but this was a bit easier.
taco_crust_slice_590_390

Other dough-less pizzas I’ve made:
Bacon & Pear Flatbreads on Pita Bread
French Bread Pizza
Bubble Up BBQ Pizza
Bruschetta Pizza on Naan

Calzone with Cabbage and flavors of a Reuben

One of my favorite pizza places is Portland Pie Company. I love seeing what their seasonal menu offers. I spotted a reuben inspired sandwich and thought I could vegetarian-ize it to skip the corned beef. I made it into a calzone and it was totally different than any others I’ve made. It has cabbage, peppers, swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and 1000-island dressing.

The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone

Ingredients:

pizza dough
1/2 cabbage
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1/4 red onion
1/2 bell pepper (green, yellow, orange)
8 oz swiss cheese
1/4 cup mayo
2 tbs ketchup
2 tbs relish
2 tbs onion, finely diced
salt & black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven (and pizza stone, if using one) to 400-degrees. Chop the cabbage into thin slivers. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add the mustard and the vinegar, stirring to combine. Add in the cabbage, tossing to combine. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Cook for 5 minutes until softened, then remove from the heat. In a small skillet, caramelize the onions over medium heat. When the onions get tan-colored and caramelized, add the green onion chunks. Cook for 3-5 minutes. In a small jar, add mayo, ketchup, relish, onion, salt, and black pepper. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Shake up the 1000 island jar and taste. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Stretch the pizza dough out into a flat and even circle. Lay the dough onto a pan or pizza stone so the part of the dough that will become the bottom. Layer the cabbage, the onions and peppers, swiss cheese, and some teaspoons of 1000 island dressing. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Keep layering all the fillings to fill (and what feels like over-filling) the calzone. Fold the top over and pinch to close. Cut a few slits in the top to vent. Bake 30-minutes. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Let rest 5 minutes before slicing. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
This was good. Maybe not amazing, but really good. I loved the acid of the vinegar, the light mustard flavor, and the creamy sweet 1000 island dressing. The veggies were crunchy and I liked that the swiss got to shine. I don’t eat corned beef but I can definitely see people liking that.

suggested adaptations: 
Reuben calzone + corned beef = a true reuben calzone
reuben calzone – pizza dough + wonton wrappers = reuben eggrolls

I like the idea of sandwiches as calzones, or pizzas for that matter. I’ve done a cheeseburger calzone that is sandwich inspired, and a sausage and peppers calzone that is sort of like a sandwich. Hmmm. Maybe my next calzone will be along the lines of a sandwich.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Today is a weird day. Our heartstrings are tight here today for the 118th Boston Marathon. Last year’s events don’t feel that long ago. I still can’t believe it and Boston is so small that it all felt like my back yard. The event production in me cringes that these terrible events forever change this race. The foodie in me feels badly that there were several restaurants nearby with servers and bartenders who are still dealing with it. Every time I listen to the first hand accounts I cannot keep the tears back.  I can’t believe how many people have suffered hearing disabilities. There are so many who are still recovering, and I feel sorry for those who will not recover.

I’m thankful to have today off, for the first time ever. Mom and I are letting the pups run in the yard, whipping up something fun for lunch, and we’re casually watching the marathon. It seems right to settle in, enjoy the little things, and be together. In honor of the Boston Marathon, I figured on this day I should post pasta. It seems marathon-y. Not that this pasta is appropriate pre-marathon but it is a treat. It is true comfort to share today.

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Ingredients:

2 slices bacon, chopped
2 chicken breasts, chopped and marinated in Italian dressing
3 tbs ranch dressing mix
3/4 pound of spaghetti or fettuccine
2 tsp butter
2 tsp flour
1 1/2 cup milk
2 cups arugula, diced

Directions:

Pan fry bacon until crisp. Remove and drain the bacon leaving the bacon grease in the pan.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
Add chicken to the bacon pan, and cook through stirring occasionally.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
Add in a tsp of ranch mix to the chicken.
Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add in the flour and combine to a paste. Cook for 2-3 more minutes, then whisk in the milk.
Add the rest of the ranch mix, reserving 1 tsp separately. Reduce the heat to medium low.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
Cook the pasta until al dente.
Add the pasta to the chicken skillet, with the sauce (if large enough) over medium heat.
Add in the chicken, bacon, arugula, and remaining ranch mix, tossing well to combine. Cook for 2-5 more minutes until the sauce reduces a bit.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

This was so good. I loved this. The flavors were strong. I liked the peppery arugula and just enough bacon but lots of bacon flavor with the chicken. The ranch is really undeniable. It was so good. This is so good with strong elements so I was glad I didn’t muck it up with too many flavors…like cheese.

suggested adaptations:
premade sauce + a grocery store roasted chicken = an easier chicken bacon ranch pasta
chicken bacon ranch pasta – arugula + spinach + chopped tomato – half the ranch mix = lighter flavored chicken bacon ranch pasta

Easter Brunch Ideas

Spring is in the air and Easter is on the calendar. Here’s a quickie round-up of make-and-take brunch ideas or ideas if you are hosting your own Easter festivities.

The first rule of brunch, is not to make everything more complicated than it needs to be. Each thing you serve cannot be the most special thing ever. It is hard to make eggs, and waffles, and hashbrowns, and toast…unless you are in a diner. If you’re making something eggy, or pancake-y then do something easy with it like fruit you’ve prepped in advance, or muffins that are already made, or bagels with spreads that are ready to serve.

Quiche is a great brunch item that you’ll make in advance. Voila! Brunch is served! I made quiche lorraine recently and loved it. bacon + swiss cheese = delicious. Ms. L makes a killer tomato, basil, goat cheese quiche.
The Three Bite Rule - Quiche Lorraine
Going somewhere? Make your own granola and serve it with yogurt. I loved this maple peanut butter granola over coffee Greek yogurt, or vanilla, or coconut. It is very pack-able.
The Three Bite Rule - Maple Peanut Butter Granola

Make-your-own
this is the easiest way to serve a crowd and everyone will get what they want. It makes it fun and easily customizable for all ages.

build your own BLT bar:
bacon vs. canadian bacon? 2 lettuces, tomatoes, different breads, different spreads, avaocados, sprouts? you name it. It’s the perfect between breakfast & lunch. Maybe there are fried eggs to lean towards breakfast? Maybe there are cheeses? you. name. it.
Avocado BLT
Build your own yogurt parfait bar: 
granola, toasted coconut, strawberries, bananas, dried cranberries, walnuts, brown sugar, + whatever else you have.
Yogurt Parfait Bar
Salad bar: 
this takes the every-day side to a whole new level. Warm up a honey-baked ham, grab some good rolls, and spread out a salad bar and you’re done! Edemame, chickpeas, hardboiled eggs, cheese, and lots of veggies make it fresh and a meal in its own. Plan a salad bar as part of your meal or for those get the evening munchies hours after brunch.
The 3 Bite Rule - Salad Bar
Build your own grilled cheese:
give some bread options, a few cheeses, and then a few other add-ins will please all palates. I love a good grilled cheese. American cheese and cheddar have me easily won over on a grilled cheese. Prep some bacon, tomato slices, mustards, caramelized onions, ham, or whatever you love. You need a grill pan ready or a panini press.
grilled cheese with balsamic onions
pizza grilled cheese
bacon grilled cheese with peach compote

Build your own breakfast sandwich would be like my dream come true:
bagels, croissants, biscuits with cheese options, and a panful of eggs sounds like my idea of a good time. My fav bagel place does breakfast sandwiches with slices of egg and cheese omelets. That’s an easy way to make a bunch for a crowd. Offer bacon, sausage, ham, arugula, and tomato slices. Add some tortillas, black beans, and salsa for breakfast burritos.

Whip up a blender-ful of creamsicle smoothies. This is my favorite smoothie and I think everyone would love it. Add some champagne for a twist on a mimosa, or a splash of vanilla vodka for a spiked brunch bevvie
The Three Bite Rule - Creamsicle Smoothie
Lastly, the hands-down easiest festive breakfast is a cereal bar. Some milks and everyone brings a cereal and you have an instant cereal party. It is a fun pot-luck with no-cooking required.

Chunky Monkey Pancakes

Bananas are so deceiving. I mean the skin can be such a faker. Sometimes it loooooks like it is getting squishy and then you peel it and find a pretty fresh banana. I had bananas that looked like they weren’t going to make it another day so I planned to add them to some weekend pancakes. The skin was all speckled with brown spots. I peel the banana to find that it is pretty hard. What a fake-out!

Well, I decided to see what would happen if I warmed them up a bit with a few seconds in the microwave. Voila! Instantly overripe bananas. Problem solved.

Ingredients:

1-2 bananas
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chocolate chunks (or chips)
pancake mix
ground cinnamon
vanilla extract

Directions:

If the banana isn’t somewhat soft and overripe, microwave for 30 seconds.
The Three Bite Rule - Chunky Monkey Pancakes
Mix up the pancake batter. Add a touch of vanilla extract and a pinch of cinnamon.
The Three Bite Rule - Chunky Monkey Pancakes
Preheat a grill pan or flat skillet to medium heat. Spray with non-stick spray.
Prep or chop the nuts, bananas, and chocolate.
The Three Bite Rule - Chunky Monkey Pancakes
Ladle pancake batter onto the hot pan and evenly sprinkle banana, walnut, and chocolate chunks onto the pancakes. Wait for them to bubble and then flip.
The Three Bite Rule - Chunky Monkey Pancakes
Flip once.
The Three Bite Rule - Chunky Monkey Pancakes
Sprinkle with remaining nuts & banana chunks. Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Chunky Monkey Pancakes
These were great. The nuts were definitely the best touch. I think the crunch was what made these so good. I added the nuts, chocolate, and bananas in after it was on the griddle because I wanted them to be evenly distributed. I figured in the batter it might come out uneven. The chocolate gets messy when it melts, but wiping the spatula solved that.

This would be great as waffles too. I add the cinnamon and vanilla to ensure the boxed mix tastes like the opposite of a box.

P.S. Is it amusing that the CHUNKY monkey pancakes are following a book about French women not getting FAT?

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

I was intrigued by the title. I know not to judge a book by it’s cover but this one was too cute to pass by.

The Three Bite Rule - Book: French Women Don't Get Fat

I honestly thought this book was going to be a bit more about culture and eating while being less about not-eating and recipes. I guess it was more about food and lifestyle but the recipes didn’t interest me at all and I skimmed past them. I was shocked that she reccomends some crazy-sounding detox of Magic Leek Soup. Apparently French ladies swear by it, but it sounds just like what she’s trying to go against: fad diets.

The author is French, but mainly lives in NYC now, so her credibility is intact of growing up in France but definitely knowing what Americans eat. It starts with tales of her upbringing, her foreign exchange to Massachusetts, and returning to France overweight and then getting more overweight when she moved away to Paris for college. This was when she learned to consider food, exercise, and habits.

The Three Bite Rule - Book: French Women Don't Get Fat

Her suggestions are common sense based (minus the detox of leek soup). She suggests writing down everything you eat for 3 weeks. Lots of diets suggest this. There are apps galore and it definitely sounds like it would be helpful to some people skipping snacks to avoid having to write it down. She wants the dieter to be able to focus on when you’re eating and what you’re eating. She then goes all-in on this 48-hour diuretic of leek soup. I cannot get behind the 2-day detoxing of eating one thing. I am doubtful any dietician would suggest this either.

I do think it makes a ton of sense that she breaks the new ways of thinking about food into 3-month periods. That seems like a justifiable time to change, adopt new habits, and makes it not a crash diet. Her tips are normal, like decreasing some “demons” so that you aren’t cutting them out completely and being more focused on eating more different foods, appropriate portions, eating more fruits/veggies, focusing on seasonal foods, moving more, and drinking more water. All these things make sense, and none would shock anyone wanting to be healthier.

The water is a big one. She writes a ton about water. I’ll pause to sip my water because this really resonated with me.

gulp.

I don’t normally have any water when I wake up, especially before coffee. I also don’t tend to drink much after dinner. I think I drink a lot during the rest of the day, but these were easy times to drink more.

I looove her suggestions about not cutting out the things you love. She adores dessert and french pastries. I think cutting anything out completely is going to make many people reallllly crave it. Her point is very clear for French women with chocolate and wine. They tend to love chocolate and eat it regularly, but eat high quality and small amounts. That makes it seem really do-able. They also keep in check by making up for one day on the next. Again, seems do-able.

It was interesting, easy to read, and a quick read. I don’t think it is life changing, but I’ll keep in mind the water tips and the focus on eating more different things rather than bigger portions of fewer things.

I’ll leave you with this video. I doubt any Paleo-dieters read my blog but this archeologist explains why the fad diet is really all made up, by people who don’t know about what people in the Paleolithic period ate, let alone how diets would have differed by area of the globe. It’s fascinating. Yes whole foods, and real foods are better for you. Nobody fights you on that. I just tire of people thinking that the’s a magic new approach to food.

some other books for foodies I recommend: Kitchen Confidential; Heat; French Kids Eat Everything; The American Way of Eating

any foodie inspired books you suggest for me?

Blueberry Pie Smoothie

I’ve been on a savory breakfast kick for awhile with quiche lorraine, and veggie strata, and quesadilla quevos rancheros but I figured it is time for seasonal smoothies again. I tried something different and added graham cracker to mimic the pie crust. Ohh wow. Such a fun addition.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup blueberries
5 oz blueberry Greek yogurt
1/2 apple or banana, frozen & chopped
1 graham cracker, crumbled

Directions:

Add blueberries, yogurt, frozen fruit, and graham cracker to a blender.
The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry Pie Smoothie
Blend and enjoy! Add a splash of milk if it is too thick.
The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry Pie Smoothie
The graham cracker in there was a new one for me. I loved how much it changed the smoothie. It totally reminded me of pie. I’ve seen smoothies with oatmeal. Maybe I’d try that next?

I used frozen green apple. Whenever I have fruit nearing it’s end or if I won’t get to it in time, I chop it up and freeze it for smoothies. I just add it to the same smoothie fruit container. The flavors don’t really mix that much and I usually use multiple fruits in my smoothies anyway.

Fruits that freeze well: apples, all berries, bananas, pears, grapes, cantaloupe. I wouldn’t freeze them and then defrost them, but they work well for smoothies.

Sausage and Pepper Calzone

Like most calzones, this could easily be a pizza but I was feelin’ a calzone. I also wanted to play around with using different cheeses so I went with Monterey Jack. Pepper Jack, cheddar, mozzarella, or a mix would work well with these flavors. This calzone feels very ballpark-ish which is appropriate right about now. A million years ago I made a sausage and pepper calzone but I didn’t really blog it. It was time to highlight the good stuff.

I went really heavy on the Italian Seasoning but would tone it down a bit for anyone who doesn’t like bold flavor. I used the color peppers that were on sale but really any would be good. I also think it’s an easy time to lighten up the calorie count with some chicken sausage or turkey smoked sausage. This is a crowd-pleaser that could easily be prepped in advance and baked for only 10 minutes. Then it can be refrigerated or frozen and baked for another 20-30 when it is time to eat.
The Three Bite Rule - Sausage & Peppers Calzone

Ingredients:

1 ball pizza dough
3 sausage links, scored with a few shallow slices
1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 red pepper
1/2 onion
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
a few drips of liquid smoke (optional)
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees (and pizza stone if using one).
In a medium skillet, over medium heat, cook the sausage until crisped and cooked through. Or grill them!
The Three Bite Rule - Sausage & Peppers Calzone
Slice the peppers and onion into strips and then into chunks.
In a large pan, over medium heat, cook the onions in 1 tsp olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add the peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, adding liquid smoke if desired.
The Three Bite Rule - Sausage & Peppers Calzone
Spread the pizza dough out, stretching it out evenly.
Spread it out onto the pizza stone/pan off center, so the filling gets added to what will become the bottom. The top will cover it and meet the bottom without having to move the calzone.
Layer cheese, sausage slices, peppers, and repeat. Spread all the filling out to the edges. Layer, layer, layer…it seems like less when it bakes.
The Three Bite Rule - Sausage & Peppers Calzone
Pull the top over and pinch it to close the seam.
Cut a few slices in the top of the calzone. Brush the top with eggwash or olive oil (optional).
Bake 30 minutes.
Let sit 5 minutes before slicing.
The Three Bite Rule - Sausage & Peppers Calzone
The calzone is a great way to reduce the meat and up the veggies. With just 3 links of sausage I had 4 servings of calzone. The ratio is off here, being heavy on the peppers and light on the sausage which I love. I think there was plenty of sausage (2 links might have been just fine) and I’d rather us filling it up with peppers and onions.