March 2017 Recap

My birthday month was a good one! I seriously ate birthday cake for a week. As March draws to an end, I’m very ready for spring though work is getting nutty. Mr. J and I had a little getaway to Foxwoods for a little gambling, and a lot of catching up with my college roomies + spouses. We ate at Guy Fieri’s Kitchen + Bar and loved it!

My grain bowl obsession continues! I loooved this pilaf, grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, & honey mustard bowl. Annnd then I made a teriyaki one with grilled pineapple.
The Three Bite Rule - Rice Pilaf & Honey Mustard Grain Bowl
Chicken Caesar Pasta was such a hit. Loved it.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta
I baked! We had a snow day and this Blueberry & Cream Cheese Pastry was perfect.
The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastry

The Little One:
He’s been throwing around some funny phrases, like “I think so” and “ummm” when he’s thinking. There are more and more sentences happening! We had a dry spell for avocados so he’s really hoping ties aren’t cut between our government and Mexico. He had a sleepover with the grandparents and loved it. I got some re-fillable pouches for applesauce and yogurt and those are such a hit.

Monthly goals:

Year of the seasonal decor: I JUST got this awesome felt pom pom garland that is around a twiggy wreath for springy Easter decor! Yay!!
do more dinner prep more in advance: ehh. speedy dinners are def happening and I’m using up the comfort food.
read more (and always carry my book on me): I read Brain on Fire with bookclub and Girl at War.
watch more movies: we watched Girl on the Train, which was wayyy more intense for Mr. J who hadn’t read the book.
cook more fish: nahh. Maybe in spring this will actually happen?
focus on clothes that I really like: no new clothes this month

Quick Fav Dinners

Here’s what I’ve been eating lately, in a quest to get dinner on the table FAST. Whether it is to fit into toddler-time (which translates to: now/soon or there’s a chance somebody might meltdown (it could be me!)) or just a not-new dinner with minimal steps, the goal is to can eat before it is too late. Here’s what’s hitting my weekly menu when it isn’t getting blogged!

Gnocchi from the freezer with a quick sauce. Seriously, once water boils, it cooks for 5 minutes. The other day, I warmed some of my fav kitchen ready tomatoes from a can, plopped in a scoop of cream cheese and warmed it all together. Poof. Instant dinner that seems a bit more special. Take the same liberty with ravioli or tortellini.
The Three Bite Rule - Tomato & Basil Gnocchi
Chicken, Avocado, Ranch subs (admittedly, I skipped the bacon because it would take too long).  Make it a sandwich, a wrap, a pocket…whatever is on hand.
Keep some breaded frozen chicken on hand in the freezer. A little even goes a long way in a sandwich or salad.
ranch_chick_plate_590_390
Tacos. I found some frozen cooked & seasoned taco meat. Instant fiesta!

Breakfast for dinner! Mr. J is verrrry good at whipping together a frittata with whatever cheese/spinach/tomato and freezer bacon he can find. We always have eggs around and there’s just more time for a breakfast dish at night!
brussels_hash_eggs_590_390

Speaking of, I’ve also been front-loading dinner prep by prepping extra and having some to pull out of the freezer. Enter, cheesy hashbrowns. These bad boys just needed topping and to bake.
The Three Bite Rule - Hashbrown Bake
Of course there’s always room for boxed mac & cheese on occasion…

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Pastry

I pretty much always want savory for breakfast but on the eve of a snow day, I flipped to the other side and made this super easy breakfast pastry. I saw this lemon-cherry one on Pinterest and thought: sign me up, I’m no baker, I do not need to make pastry dough. Puff pastry sheets for the win! I also had a ginourmous bag of frozen blueberries, so it seemed a great use for the frozen ones.

The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastry

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastry (for 4-6 servings)

adapted from Peas & Peonies
Ingredients:

1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted to room temperature
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 teaspoon water
6 oz cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice (or orange juice)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees, and bring cream cheese and puff pastry to room temperature. (I put my cream cheese on defrost in the microwave for a minute to speed it up).
In a medium pot, heat the blueberries, honey, and a splash of water (about 1/4 cup) to a simmer. Then add in the cornstarch and water mixture. Cook for a few minutes until thick, then remove from the heat.
The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastry
In a mixer or with a hand mixer, whip the cream cheese and sugar together. Scrape the sides down and ensure it is well combined.
Roll the puff pastry a bit so it is 1/4 inch thick, or a little less and lay it onto a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray, or onto parchment paper. Spread the cream cheese onto the middle of the pastry. Mine had been folded in 3rds and I used the lines as a reference.
The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastry
Make cuts into the puff pastry on either side of the cream cheese. I made mine about 1″ wide from the exterior edge towards the filling. Spoon the berry filling on top of the cream cheese.
The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastry
Fold the puff pastry cuts across the filling, alternating sides at an angle.
The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastry
When you’ve gotten almost to the other end, repeat for the 4 end-most pastry “tabs” then resume from the other direction to overlap and close it all. This means that 3/4 way down the pastry there will be some overlap, but otherwise it won’t be closed.
The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastry
Bake for 25-minutes, or until fully golden brown. Let it cool before icing.
While it cools, mix confectioners sugar, milk, and lemon juice with a fork for the glaze.
When the pastry is cool, drizzle the glaze over the top. The Three Bite Rule - Blueberry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastry
Slice & enjoy!

I loved this! I only took a few liberties from the other recipe. I made my filling partly to have it less sweet, a bit less sugar, and because it felt easy-enough. I used a little less cream cheese filling as I wanted the ratio to be more 3:1, fruity with a touch of creamy. Also, I have no idea what crescent dough sheets are. It sounds delightful but I’ve never seen that in the store before.

Let’s chat microwaves. Do you have a good defrost function? My current microwave has an excellent one called “inverter turbo defrost” (said with a deep, deep voice). It was great to gent-ly soften the cream cheese. Otherwise, breakfast might have taken forever! I’d whip this up again. It was quite easy and looks cute. I could have made the berry filling, cream cheese mixture, and glaze in advance for an even quicker assembly, but slow and un-rushed is what snow days are for, right?

Teriyaki Rice Bowl

The rice-bowl obsession continues! This one was so good and a hit for all of us! I looooved the pineapple and edamame. I whipped this up on an indoor grill pan but would be great outside too. We needed a flavorful and fresh break from a couple of very cold days. It makes tasty leftovers too!

The Three Bite Rule - Teriyaki Rice Bowl

Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowls (for 4)

Ingredients:

2 cups rice
4 chicken thighs, or tenders, or breasts
1 cup teriyaki marinade
2 cups pineapple, sliced into chunks
1 1/2 cup edamame

Directions:

Marinate the chicken in most of the teriyaki marinade, reserving a few tablespoons for topping.
Cook the rice. I used 10-minute brown rice.
Heat a grill pan to medium heat and grill the pineapple a few minutes on each side.
The Three Bite Rule - Teriyaki Rice Bowl
Grill the chicken on each side. Using a meat thermometer, make sure the chicken cooks through. Keep warm in the oven while prepping everything else.
The Three Bite Rule - Teriyaki Rice Bowl
Cook the edamame. Mine was frozen out of the shells and just microwaved a few minutes.
Slice a piece of chicken for each bowl.
Spoon the rice into each bowl, add edamame, pineapple, and chicken. The Three Bite Rule - Teriyaki Rice Bowl
Drizzle with remaining &unused teriyaki marinade. (Not any marinade the raw chicken was in.) Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Teriyaki Rice Bowl
The marinade is pretty strong, so use just a touch. I liked the sweet pineapple with a little char flavor against the teriyaki.

If you like this one, here are my other fav bowls:
Honey mustard Chicken, Bacon & Avocado & Orzo
Italian Grain bowl with Meatballs, Asparagus, Tomato & Cracked Wheat
Falafel Bowl with Couscous

I like the formula aspect of these: grain + protein + veggies + sauce = delicious. I’m not sure of my next one, but there will more, I’m sure of it.

Veggie-Loaded Baked Pasta

I was wanting something beyond pasta with sauce and was thinking I’d make some tweaks to up the veggie quotient. I used wheat pasta. Gasp! I never do that. Never. This was a good spot to do so. You can’t even tell here – otherwise, I really wouldn’t have.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta

Veggie-Loaded Baked Pasta

Ingredients (for 5-6 servings):

28 oz can Kitchen Ready tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 sweet potato (fully cooked)
1 large zucchini, diced
1/2 pound wheat pasta (penne, ziti, rigatoni)
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup ricotta

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
In a large pot, add in the canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning, garlic, and mashed sweet potato. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low.
Chop then roast the zucchini in a single layer on a sheet pan, drizzled with olive oil for 20-30 minutes – until golden. Stir a few times & leave the oven on.
Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta. Then cook to al dente, according to the package. When cooked, mix about a cup of the tomato sauce into the pasta.
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon a cup of sauce onto the bottom, add a 1/3 of the pasta, then sprinkle with spinach and zucchini.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella and a few spoonfuls of ricotta.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Spoon half of the remaining pasta on top, then add remaining spinach, remaining zucchini, half of the shredded mozzarella, and remaining ricotta.
Top with remaining pasta and some more sauce (reserve the remaining mozzarella for the last few minutes of baking).
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Bake 40 minutes, covered.
Remove the cover, top with remaining cheese, and bake about 5 more minutes, until melted.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

I loved this! Count ‘em: sweet potato; spinach; zucchini. Plus wheat pasta. It is delightfully cheesy and flavorful without seeming veggie focused. The sweet potato thickened the sauce and added a bit of sweetness. It was leftover from the little one and I popped it into the freezer awhile back…not even sure what I was going to do with it!
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta

Gyro-style Wrap with Chicken Sausage

Chicken sausages are a regular go-to for dinner at our house. They’re fully cooked, so they’re just so speedy for a weeknight dinner. I was thinking I’d quickly sear them for that caramelized exterior to suggest gyro. I used weird wraps for this but the premise of this sandwich was good!
The Three Bite Rule - Gyro Wrap

The wraps were lavash wraps which are fantastic for roll-style wraps, but not so much for this wrap-like-a-pita.

Gyro Style Wraps with Chicken Sausage

Ingredients:  (for 2 wraps)

2 chicken sausages
2 cups/handfuls of frozen seasoned fries
2 wraps: tortillas, pitas, etc
1 cup lettuce
creamy caesar dressing (optional, or use Italian dressing, or a schmear of hummus, or balsamic vinegar)
1 small tomato

Directions:

Bake the fries, according to the package.
Pan sear the chicken sausages (or cook through if not fully cooked). Then slice into coins.
The Three Bite Rule - Gyro Wrap
Lay out the wrap and top with lettuce, creamy caesar, tomatoes, chicken sausage slices, and fries.
The Three Bite Rule - Gyro Wrap
Roll and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Gyro Wrap
I trimmed these lavash breads as they’re really best suited with the filling spread all over it and then rolled like a pinwheel. Wrap the bottom in foil for street-food eatability. Is eatability a word? WordPress seems to think so and isn’t correcting me!

I admit this isn’t my most signature dish ever. I liked the seasoned fries in there. It was a great use for a very itty bit we had in the freezer. I’d use different wraps next time, but these totally hit the spot and I think the fries + chicken sausage + creamy caesar makes this. Plus, the fries only needed 20 minutes so in the time I plopped them into the oven, I then just seared the sausages and prepped the filling and they were done. Poof! Din-din!

Chicken Caesar Pasta

I needed a win in the kitchen, and this was it! I was SO HAPPY with this chicken caesar pasta! I made a few things recently that I just wasn’t thrilled with. One was a sandwich which was pretty good and I prob will still blog it. The other. Ugg. It just wasn’t great and I plan to remake it for you. It just had such porky potential!
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta

This Chicken Caesar Pasta was perfect! I love watching the little one eat spaghetti and he was very into the chicken. It was freezing, otherwise we might have grilled the chicken. It was quick (or could largely be made in advance) and is a crowd pleaser for sure. Win. Win. Win! Caesar begs for anchovy paste…don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. That is absolutely what gives that Caesar flavor…plus the pepper and Parmesan don’t hurt either.

Chicken Caesar Pasta (serves 4)

Ingredients:

~3 chicken thighs/tenders/breasts (I used thighs, of course)
1/4 cup salad dressing for marinade (I used creamy Caesar)
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups Parmesan
cracked black pepper
tiny dab (1/8 of a teaspoon, 1/4 inch squirt from the tube) Anchovy Paste
2 cups greens (I used a spinach/baby kale mix that go into my smoothies)
1/2 pound spaghetti

Directions:

Heat all the things: a large pot of salted water to a boil (for the pasta), preheat the oven to 350 (to keep the chicken warm), heat a large pan to medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil (for the chicken).
In a medium pot, add in the heavy cream and grate or mince the clove of garlic. Heat over medium for about 10 minutes.
While the cream and garlic are cooking together, use the large pan with oil to pan sear the chicken.  Brown it on each side, then pop into the oven to keep it warm or finish cooking it.
Add the pasta into the boiling water.
Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta
Add the cheese, pepper, and anchovy paste to the cream sauce stirring well. Cook for about 5-10 minutes.
Chop the greens.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta
Drain the pasta and return it to the large pot. Add in the greens & cream sauce (ladle the sauce in and stir so you can add what you like).
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta
Add in the chicken and toss to coat everything.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta
Enjoy!

The sauce was a trick from Sunny Anderson’s Instagram: 123 sauce – 1 garlic clove, 2 cups heavy cream, 3 cups cheese. I took a little liberty on the ratios since I knew I didn’t need too much. Love it.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta

In a hurry? Use leftover grilled chicken and doctor up a jar of alfredo with the Parm & anchovy paste. Add in any greens you have (spinach will cook enough from the hot pasta, or saute any you have on hand). Boom. Dinner = done. Next time I might top it with some toasted panko/parmesan/drizzle of caesar & butter for a super crunchy topping!

Sweet Potato & Bacon Quiche

I had every intention for this to be a meatless meal but the bacon seemed just so necessary. Roasted bites of sweet potato with salty bits of bacon and buttery cheese come together to make this quiche substantial and so full of flavor. If it had to be meatless, I’d have substitute the bacon for sage. Bacon makes everything better so it felt important here. The sweet potato really called out for some salt.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche

Ingredients:

Pie crust
1 large sweet potato
3 strips of bacon
6 oz fontina
6 eggs
2/3 cup cream or half & half
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees and par bake the pie crust for 10 minutes.
Chop the sweet potato and toss in a coating of olive oil, salt & pepper and then roast for about 20 minutes, until cooked through.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Pan fry the bacon until crisp, then drain.
Grate the fontina.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, pepper, and cream of tartar.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Layer cheese, potato, and bacon into the pie crust.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Pour the egg and milk mixture on top of the filling.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Bake for 40 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
I like the buttery crust here. Make it yourself if you’re so inclined, or unroll a frozen one and marvel at how quick this dinner is. I got the whole thing prepped and into the oven annnnnnd cleaned up by the time it was done baking.

The little one just wasn’t into it. I can’t figure out why he won’t eat things cooked together. Much like the components of my chicken pot pie, he loves these ingredients but didn’t eat much. He’s into sweet potatoes and loooves bacon but this wasn’t his thang. I on the other hand, was thrilled to have leftover quiche for breakfast following this dinner!

Grain Bowl: Honey Mustard, Chicken, Bacon & Avocado

You know how I’m obsesssssed with grain bowls? This one was on my list for awhile and we all loved it. In the words of Joey Tribiani: what’s not to love? chicken? good! rice pilaf? good! avocado? good! bacon? goooood!

My other favs: Italian Grain Bowls with cracked wheat & Falafel Grain Bowls with couscous. The little one likes the challenge of eating rice. This would also be a good way to use any leftover grilled chicken and it is an easy way to stretch chicken since you wouldn’t need much at all here. We used our fav: chicken thighs.

The Three Bite Rule - Rice Pilaf & Honey Mustard Grain Bowl

Ingredients:

Marinaded & grilled chicken
Rice Pilaf
3 strips of bacon
1 avocado
cucumber
tomatoes
honey mustard dressing

Directions:

Marinade the chicken in salad dressing or your fav marinade for 4+ hours, or all day. Then grill the chicken to cook through.
Cook the rice pilaf according to the package and fluff with a fork.
Chop the bacon and then pan fry until the bite-sized pieces are crisp. Then remove and drain on paper towel.
Slice the avocado, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Slice the chicken.
Assemble and drizzle with honey mustard.

The Three Bite Rule - Rice Pilaf & Honey Mustard Grain Bowl
This was a hit. It worked out perfectly to grill on an unseasonably warm night. I liked this twist since I’d been thinking more Mediterranean/Thai. This was comforting and felt casually fun. Bring on all the grain bowls! Plus, it is so amusing to see the determination of a toddler scooping and then spooning rice into his mouth!