December 2018 Recap

Howwww is it the end of December?! I think this was the fastest month of the year! Fingers crossed I can get photos of a bunch of menu items during my week off from work.

Christmas was magical. I think 3 (almost 4) years old is quite possibly the most ideal age for Christmas wonder. Our little guy loved seeing the lights, decorating the tree, and meeting Santa. Baby C was so happy and napped and ate pretty well considering it was an unusual day. Christmas day was great. Christmas eve we hosted dinner at home and making fresh pasta has become our tradition for the last few years. We made ravioli and crockpot meatballs. Dad made his signature antipasto and Mom made all the cookies.

December was busy with almost-final touches on the basement renno, social gatherings for dinners out and holiday parties, and busy at work. I really tried to balance Christmas being a magical time with what is actually do-able without adding stress. I decorated a bit less, we didn’t get lights onto the house, visiting Santa was suuuuper late, but the kiddos can’t understand a calendar so it is OK for this season of our lives. More and bigger wouldn’t help anything except for making stressed out parents.

The basement renno is allllmost done. It is in the final stretch. It is livable and just needs the tiniest of details. After the first overnight guests we may settle more toys there though having family helps us (cough, all credit to Mr. J) get the last items done. I’ve tried to “own” meals/laundry/gift wrapping while he’s taking on all the projects!

I think everyone needs loaded waffle fries on a menu, even if just for lunch.
The Three Bite Rule - Loaded Waffle Fries
I made an easier-than-expected Monte Cristo Grilled Cheese and hope that it reinvents leftovers from Christmas!
The Three Bite Rule - Monte Cristo Grilled Cheese
This PB&J smoothie is my favorite. I rarely make any others now that this one feels perfected.
The Three Bite Rule - PB & J Smoothie Healthified
Work closes between Christmas & New Years, which is awesome for time home, and also since I’m at a negative balance from maternity leave. I hope to enjoy the time and to get a few recipes blogged (I have a dessert, a pizza, and maybe a soup on my list!), stock the freezer just a bit, and get a few things done.

The Little Boy:

He moved up to the next class at daycare which is awesome. Such a big kid! We put his play kitchen into the basement and he is loving cooking for us! He is suuuuper into tools and kept very occupied by poking holes with a screwdriver into our broken-down cardboard. He got to watch his first movie! We watched the original, animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He loved it. For food, he loves eating his gingerbread house and all the treats of the season. Meat-less tacos didn’t phase him and I was glad to see him eat them as is, and not deconstruct them to eat elements separately. He liked “fancy toast” which means nutella. He was so excited for Christmas and couldn’t wait to leave cookies for Santa. His birthday is coming right up which might mean that at 4 years old, we maybe should give up the crib. I had hoped we’d get to be sleeping through the night before the effort of teaching him to stay in bed, but alas, someday.

The Baby Girl:

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She’s suchhh a happy girl! She’s very chill, very smiley, and eating better. We’re on a better dosage for reflux. I think she loved being held by all the family for Christmas. We have a good routine going in the mornings and after work. It feels like a relief to know what to expect with her now. Daycare loves her because she’s so sweet and doesn’t cry.

2019 goals:

Year of ___ decluttering/minimizing/organizing: 2 donation pick ups helped move things out but we’re not 100% settled into the basement yet. Almost! I’m glad to report our wetbar is cleared off now that we moved into our desks in the basement renno.
Feeding Littles: I wish I did this more. I’ll keep at it. Dinner is just such a rush to get onto the table and I try not to have screens at the table! Here’s one!   
Work on advanced food prepping: I capitalized on Trader Joe’s favs (Mandarin Orange Chicken & edemame) and some pre-made freezer items this month (like leftover Thanksgiving meatballs, lasagna, a calzone)
What I’m reading: I didn’t read all that much this month. I’m quite far into What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton but it is ohh so long- I’m about 400 pages into the 600ish pages. I may call it done and move on.
What I’m watching: Christmas movies! Christmas with the Kranks is a fav and so underrated, in my opinion. We rushed to squeeze in a few other favs like Home Alone, Elf, Christmas Vacation, etc.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie, Healthified

Wayyy back, circa 2013 I made a peanut butter and jelly inspired smoothie. Since then, I’ve been drinking a new version with a green base. I made this one several times a week while pregnant with Baby C and my preschooler had some whenever I made it. The greens in the base are totally camouflaged so it is a great green-smoothie starter.
The Three Bite Rule - PB & J Smoothie Healthified
I often use a smoothie to be my breakfast- with something small later, like 1/2 cup Cheerios or a hard boiled egg. It also makes a great snack during this busy, on-the-go season!

PB & J Smoothie, Healthified

Ingredients (for 1-2 servings: 1 meal or 2 snacks)

1 1/2 cups greens (spinach or baby spinach & baby kale mix)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular)
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1-2 tablespoon peanut butter
water

The Three Bite Rule - PB & J Smoothie Healthified

Directions:

Add greens, milk, and yogurt to the blender and blend well. Keep blending once it seems like enough. The more the better!
The Three Bite Rule - PB & J Smoothie Healthified
Then add in the blueberries, ground flaxseed, and peanut butter.
Add small increments of water until desired consistency. (I end up using about 1/2 cup usually)
Blend well and enjoy!

The Three Bite Rule - PB & J Smoothie Healthified
I like it best with regular vanilla yogurt but Greek has more protein (and more tang). I buy this bag of “juicing greens” which is baby spinach and baby kale. Once it has hung around about a week and there is any left, I freeze it an break some off for smoothies.

I add the water to get it to a drinkable consistency. Milk would work too. I keep adding, very slowly, until it splashes on the sides of my blender. Then I know it’ll go through the straw well.

Monte Cristo Grilled Cheese

December seems to be a combo of feeding guests and repurposing leftovers! Use all the leftovers! This ham, cheese, and raspberry jam sandwich on sweet bread is craving your leftover party foods (like that spiral ham) or cheese (remnants from a cheese board)! Sometimes they are ham, turkey, and cheese and the sweet fruity spread is what makes this iconic sandwich.

I made these for a lunch and it brought me back to childhood memories of my Dad ordering the monte cristo at a family favorite restaurant. That sweet bread with salty ham and melty cheese is such a great combo. Restaurants deep fry it but this is quickly pan fried without the hassle of battering the whole sandwich.
The Three Bite Rule - Monte Cristo Grilled Cheese

Psssst. I used challah bread for this (and you can use leftover challah for this french toast too!)

Monte Cristo Grilled Cheese (for 2)

Ingredients:

4 slices of challah bread
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
2 slices of white cheddar
2 slices of American cheese
4 slices of ham

Directions:

Slice the bread and spread one side with raspberry jam. Then layer American on the other side, then ham, then cheddar to assemble the sandwich.
The Three Bite Rule - Monte Cristo Grilled Cheese

Preheat a griddle or frying pan.
Lightly spread the outside with butter/oil/mayo and lay that side onto the pan.
Cook for a few minutes and spread the other side.
Carefully flip and cook for a few minutes more. Cover for the last minute to ensure the cheese all melts.
Slice and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Monte Cristo Grilled Cheese

I loved this! The bread is so delightfully soft and sweet, especially with the jam, but the salty ham and melty cheese makes the best contrast here. The American cheese gives that melt factor and the cheddar gives good flavor. A sprinkle of powdered sugar would be beautiful. The bread is decadent. I didn’t make it as French toast, but that’s another way to do it. These would be tasty brunch elements if you’re using ingredients up or wanting to serve something without eggs! My toddler wasn’t home but I can see him liking aspects of this…maybe it would be a good reinforcement for ham since he’s not 100% gung-ho about all sandwich meat.

What I Ate: Loaded Nacho Waffle Fries

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.

You neeeed this super easy and fun dinner in your rotation for December. It is delicious, a great use of leftovers, and couldn’t be easier. What else could you look for from a weeknight dinner!? We have something Mexican about once a week so I popped a small portion of pulled pork into the freezer for occasions such as this. Add gather some queso sauce, tomato, avocado, green onion, salsa, and cheese onto waffle fries and you’ve got yourself a meal!

Taco night gets recreated for a whole different feel. I’m working to ensure foods aren’t always the same for my little one…I don’t want him thinking tacos are always one way, or cheese is always in string form, etc. Having tacos/burritos/quesadillas/etc help ensure he sees ingredients he’s familiar with in another format so it is still approachable. I took a similar tactic for a recent salami & cheese calzone being his fav sandwich flavors. I have adventurous eaters in our family, but doesn’t everyone just want a crowd-pleasing, slam-dunk of a dinner in the rotation, right?
The Three Bite Rule - Loaded Waffle Fries

Pssst. These would totally fill a group for a weekend lunch, after sledding, as a quick meal before some festive holiday gathering, or watching a game (<- jeez, I sound like I host football parties non-stop. I just like how those games bring out the snacks!).

Loaded Nacho Waffle Fries

Ingredients: (serves 3-4)

3/4 bag frozen waffle fries
~1 cup pulled pork (or pulled chicken or taco meat)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup salsa con queso
1 avocado, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup salsa

Directions:

Bake the fries according to the package.
While they bake to a crisp, pan fry the shredded pork to brown a bit and warm the queso.
Sprinkle the shredded cheese on the waffle fries and return to the oven to melt.
Drizzle some queso onto the fries and top with pork.
The Three Bite Rule - Loaded Waffle Fries
Serve and offer the toppings of tomatoes, avocado, green onions, and salsa as a top-your-own station, or top the whole platter and let everyone dig in.
Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Loaded Waffle Fries
These are plate and fork nachos, which are the very best kind! They are truly loaded and so filling- as in, ours were on salad plates instead of dinner plates! Loaded waffle fries are definitely enough to be a meal. Our toddler thought it was a super fun dinner! I’d argue that the baked fries aren’t really a far reach health-wise from the rest of it being a taco or regular nachos. These are more filling so plan portions accordingly!

This uses up the remainder of queso and a small amount of pork & cheese so it reminded me not to underestimate what can become a meal! Vegetarian-ize them swapping pork with black beans and saute some bell peppers or add whatever toppings would go in your tacos!