Some moments I can’t believe how time is moving and other times we feel like we’ve been home for-ev-er. We’re hanging in there. We are very settled into a routine. Working and caring for the kids at the same time is no joke. I know I’m moving much more and getting more time outside. Mr. J has already tackled a lot of building and yard projects. I’m sad for our pre-schooler who won’t get to see his classmates and teacher again. Our toddler does not notice anything out of the ordinary. We’re lucky- safe, healthy, some job security, access to what we need. Mr. J and I think about what’s working and where the silver linings are.
Inspiration in the kitchen ebbs and wanes. Many of our dinners are centered around what we can access and what’s quick and easy after juggling work and kids. Breakfasts and lunches are pretty similar to our usual offerings.
I made a Chicken Bacon Cheddar, and Ranch Risotto. This is sooo good. I love risotto in the pressure cooker but any rice or grain with ranch seasoning and bacon. We had a few panko crusted chicken tenders from the freezer and a few chicken thighs so it was a mix and match scenario.
A meal I was probably most surprised by was a White Bean & Sausage Soup. Our instacart order substituted spicy sausage and I didn’t know how well that would go over with anyone else so I made it as soup for myself. I loved it and will have to repeat this asap.
For Easter breakfast I made a Fluffernutter Baked French Toast. It was perfect before hunting for eggs!
We got an outdoor pizza oven so we’ve had a few pizza nights so far. I think we’ve worked out the timing and we are ohh-so obsessed. I’m sure there will be some to post here for any way to make pizza. I’m not sure what else we’re in the mood for. We’re getting take out to support our fav local spots and to treat ourselves. I love the zoom get-togethers I’ve had with a few circles but tire of back to back zoom meetings.
The Preschooler Boy:
He misses school and it breaks my heart. He grew so much to be brave and meet new people so it is sad to end the year like this. He is happy to be home and actually loves not going anywhere, but he thinks about school a lot. In terms of school, we aim for him to color, cut, draw, or write each day. I’ve created themes for each would-be-school-day. Some are better than others. Good: Squirrel Day! & Plants/Garden Day! & Ocean Day! Lame-ish: ABC day wasn’t amazing. Zoo day was ehh. He leans towards perfectionism but when we power through in a craft or project he likes it. He’s riding his bike without training wheels and is doing great! We showed him Reading Rainbow and he loves it as much as I do! Food-wise, he’s loving huge raw carrots he can just hold and bite. Lunch is always a strong meal and dinner can go either way.
The Toddler Girl:
She’s just so happy and easy-going. She has so many words! I love seeing her play more. She can see what her big brother is doing and play that with him. She loves being outside and will now happily wear her bike helmet. She loves books and has lots of stuffed animals in her bed. We’re operating a one-in, one-out for stuffed critters. She loves playing at the play kitchen and slicing wooden veggies. I’m so thankful she loves ridding in the stroller so much. Food-wise, she looooves oatmeal, cheese, cooked veggies, and turkey sandwiches.
This Year’s Goals:
Year of beauty/selfcare Yes!! I got this pulsing face-scrubber which is so fun!
Prep intentional sides and veggies: Ehh. Not really
Eat more fish: Salmon!
Blog some series: Nah. All bets are off right now.
Focus decluttering/organizing to an area: Hmm. We’ve been a bit neater since we’re home 24-7. Does that count?
Share more books on instagram: Yes! I’ve been reading a lot and sharing them.
Prioritize workouts: I’m wrapping up a cardio one called T25. I’m kind of bored with it by the end now, but they are really great workouts and I like following the calendars/schedules for each online class. We are taking a lot of walks and I’ve gone running about once a week or so.
What I’m reading: I read City of Girls and loved it! The complex characters were just what I needed. A Spark of Light goes chronologically backwards but the intense topics are now what I think of from Jodi Picoult. I went through Ask Again, Yes but didn’t love it as much as the others this month.
What I’m listening to: only the occasional podcast - Bad on Paper & What’s Gaby Cooking
What I’m watching: We’re sad that Schitt’s Creek will be over so we’re only creeping to the finale. We got really into “Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies” on CNN.
There’s nothing better than melty peanut butter. I made this Fluffernutter Baked French Toast for Easter and thought it was so fun, especially since my fam love peanut butter and fluff flavors! Baked french toast is super handy since it gets all mixed and goes into the oven as one fell swoop! I used mini marshmallows, making this super easy and it would be a great one for kids to help with! I was making it early morning before little ones would check if the Easter bunny came! Plus, I was blogging so that’s definitely a solo project!
Peanut Butter & Marshmallow French Toast
Ingredients: (for ~5-6 servings)
1/2 loaf Italian bread
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup (more for serving)
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
Slice the bread into ~1 inch slices and 1 inch cubes. (I did this the night before- when it gets a bit stale it is better!)
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
Whisk together the eggs, cream, extract, cinnamon, and maple syrup.
Stir in the bread and mix to coat well, but with care to not breakdown the bread completely.
Spray a 9″x9″ or 9″ deep dish pie plate, or similar sized baking dish with non-stick spray.
Add in half the bread mixture with half the mini marshmallows and with half the peanut butter. From a big scoop of peanut butter, push off small dollops of pb with another spoon.
Then add in the rest of the bread mixture and the rest of the peanut butter and marshmallows.
Bake for 40 minutes covered, then another 10 minutes uncovered.
Serve with syrup and enjoy!
We loved it! The marshmallows were surprisingly not too sweet which surprised me. I also served it with bacon which helps for some salt flavor! It is good as leftovers too. Being home all the time has me thinking more baked french toasts should be in rotation. Last year I made a Nutella Croissant Baked French Toast which is also fantastic- if you were looking for more ways to consume nutella!
These flavors are great on their own, but better together. That’s like all of us, right? These weird times we’re all navigating need meals to connect over. I don’t pretend all meals are perfect though at our house, most of us loved this. T was mostly into the bacon and didn’t go for the chicken. C ate some of all of it, but LOVED the chicken.
Chicken was hard to come by on some of our digital grocery orders at one point. I had a few frozen chicken thighs and some panko breaded chicken tenders that were also formal residents of our freezer. However you like/whatever you can get! Risotto or any rice or whatever grain is kicking around your pantry. Any rice, or farro, or couscous, or quinoa, or lentils, or even beans would be good! Adding ranch flavor and cheddar and bacon will make the world seem better- or at least it’ll make dinner seem better!
Chicken, Bacon, Cheddar and Ranch Risotto
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 chicken broth (or liquid ratio according to the method)
2 teaspoons dried Ranch powder mix
1 cup shredded cheddar
4 strips of bacon
4 chicken thighs grilled or pan seared or ~6 chicken tenders breaded and fried or baked
4 tablespoons ranch dressing (optional)
Prepare the risotto according to the package (or method – I used the pressure cooker so I use the liquid ratio for that 1 cup arborio to 1 1/2 cups liquid) with the dried ranch mix.
While the risotto is cooking, chop the bacon and pan fry it until crisp, then remove from the grease but save a tablespoon or two.
Add in the tablespoon or two of bacon grease into the risotto when it is fully cooked, and mix in the cheddar cheese and bacon.
Bake or grill or sear the chicken.
Spoon some risotto into bowls or plates, slice chicken on top, and lastly add a drizzle of ranch dressing.
The first time I made this I roasted some grape tomatoes for this too. Stirring in some fresh spinach would be good for a complete bowl meal. I tossed some salad stuff together on the side. Or green beans would go nicely with this too!
I thought Easter meals could still be fun despite being a bit smaller. Here are a few of my favorites, that can also be easily halved if you have fewer guests this year!
You NEED this carrot shaped cheese ball plus it is easy to make half the recipe for a little one- for just a few people. So cute! Mix up the cheese in advance and assemble before serving. Because the exterior is just cheese, I’d totally keep it eating it another time if you have leftovers! This cheese ball is prob my fav, so form it into a carrot shape!
Deviled eggs are a fun nibble while little ones are hunting for plastic eggs! Also, make just a few! I think these Breakfast Deviled Eggs will be on our table for a savory bite and I’ll probably just make a few, as in, 3 eggs worth? Eyeball it- or add them to your dinner spread using any eggs you dyed! I love Caesar Deviled Eggs and Bacon & Ranch Deviled Eggs and Sour Cream & Onion Deviled Eggs.
Breakfast foods can be easy to make half of too! I definitely recommend a baked french toast – this one is Nutella Croissant Baked French Toast is amazing!
Flipping a ham dinner into sandwiches or into a pizza would be fun, if you’re not making a whole ham!
Enjoy Easter! Hope the bunny brings some treats!
Some rainy days recently called for soup! I put this together and appreciated that it was ready to eat right away – no long cooking time needed! Soups are ideal for leftovers and are easy to make in small batches if you don’t want to eat it for 100 meals. I feel like in our heads, soup is a huge pot that cooks for hours but it doesn’t have to be!
White Bean & Sausage Soup
Ingredients: (for 2-3 servings)
1 can white beans
3 sausage links, with casing removed (hot or sweet Italian)
2 cups shredded collard greens (or kale or chard)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon oregano or thyme
1 teaspoon Trader Joe’s Mushroom Seasoning (or poultry seasoning blend, or Mrs. Dash, or other favorite seasoning)
In a large pan, pan fry the sausage until cooked through and caramelized. Break into tiny bits- sized to fit on the spoon! Drain and discard grease.
In a medium pot, add in the beans, greens, stock, garlic, seasoning, and sausage (all but the parmesan). Bring to a boil and cook for ~5-10 minutes, until the greens are fully cooked.
Reduce heat and simmer on low for 5 minutes and add in half the parmesan. Scoop into 2 bowls and sprinkle the rest of the parmesan on top of each bowl.
Stir and enjoy!
I looooved this. It hit the spot on a drizzly day while we are home. My broth was from a roasted chicken (plus some onion peals and carrots) and then I strained and froze it. A soup with homemade broth is just so good. I also swear by “Better than Bullion”. If you substitute spinach, add it just at the every end to wilt, then eat immediately.
I used hot sausage since that’s what was substituted on an instacart order. It was fantastic! Not too spicy! This soup would also be good a bit creamy, by blending about 1/3 of the beans, then adding them in with everything else. It would make it less broth-y.