9 years old?!?! How’s that possible!
This was a big and full year. I’m so glad to have the blog as a creative outlet. I think I’m my best when I am doing “all the things” even if each doesn’t shine 100% of the time. I tried to let myself take it slow when blogging just isn’t quite fitting in, but overall I’ve been active here. Thank you for joining me! I’m so grateful to hear from folks who have made something or saw something here and it means a lot to me. I love doing it and hope to instill in my little ones that hobbies are wonderful- all while not having phones at the table!
Best Burger: I mean it has to be this one, right? The Parisian Burger is circa 2014 but the competition will be what always stands out for me this year. I did really love this meatloaf burger too with brown sugar ketchup, crispy onions, and greens.
Most Photogenic: Fall Dog with Apple Slaw I’ve yet to source pretzel buns like this again…I’d better search- they seem like an Oktoberfest-ish thing.
Most Repeatable: Crispy Fish Rice Bowl
I think I made more soups and more sandwiches than some years past but definitely fewer pizzas this year.
2019 goals Recap:
Year of ___ decluttering/minimizing/organizing This was a good one for the year. With baby C joining the family and ohh-so-much artwork from Mr. T, relieving our home of stuff is good.
Feeding Littles: I wish I did this more.
Work on advanced food prepping:
What I’m reading: I read 22 books this year! Crazy! My fav was Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar followed closely by The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Find my books and ratings here.
What I’m watching:
This year’s Goals:
Year of beauty! I loved this suggestion and I kicked it off grabbing some face masks before a weekend away with my college roomies. The “year of” are something I like for myself and I don’t want to have to coordinate with anyone else. I’m overdue for some nail polishes newer than my college days, I love face masks, and my hair could use some TLC.
Prep intentional sides and veggies: too often they’re a bit of an afterthought and we could increase the colors and options here.
Eat more fish: I love it, Mr. J is OK with it, and the kids gobble it up so I should keep going there.
Blog some series: these are so fun for me while I’m doing them, I should try some others. I’ve done series of grilled cheeses, series of toast toppings, and I’ll see what else comes to mind!
Focus decluttering/organizing to an area I think I (or Mr. J) did our most impactful work when doing one little spot at a time. There’s more to do!
Share more books on instagram: I had some stories of kids books and couldn’t believe when I got actual responses and people without kids asking about more of them. It made my heart swell as something I love.
Prioritize workouts: I started Beachbody On Demand doing the Morning Meltdown 100 and I’m loving it.
What I’m reading: 20 books feels like a natural benchmark to strive towards
What I’m listening to: I love podcasts and have yet to convince my most talked-to people to also listen so we can discuss.
What I’m watching:
Butternut squash soup seems like a fall a no-brainer. I wanted apple in there and was going to grate some into it, but then I couldn’t bear to undo how silky smooth it was. Then I went to apple cider. It was like pouring liquid gold in there! So good! This is vegetarian, almost dairy-free, and an easy one to prep and freeze, or to have the ingredients
Butternut Squash & Apple Cider Soup
Ingredients: (for ~3 servings)
1 squash (~3 cups of chopped squash)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup broth
3/4 cup apple cider
salt, pepper, and Parmesan for garnish
Cook the butternut squash. (I pressured cooked mine according to the appliance’s instructions- I pealed it, scooped out the seeds, and chopped a bit.)
Cook until totally cooked through. (I cooked it in the pressure cooker with a little water for 4 minutes.)
In a large pot, cook the butter until it browns – just after it foams, watch it brown and then quickly remove the whole pot from the heat so it doesn’t burn. Quickly add in the squash, then the stock, and cook for about 10 minutes over low heat.
Remove from the heat and blend until smooth.
Add in the cider and cook for another 10 minutes.
Enjoy with a sprinkle of parmesan and some cracked black pepper and salt as desired.
I loved this! The brown butter and the apple cider make it so special. I had 2 meal-portions and another smaller portion I froze for another time. My butternut squash was pretty petite- moreso than a usual one.
The pressure cooker made this so fast and easy. It pulverized it, which was perfect for this case but not what I’d always want. My teething-1-year old might say something different though!
October was very much a blur. The national burger competition was an entirely a different experience for me and we don’t travel much anymore so that was usual for us too! The kiddos stayed with grandparents and Mr. J and I jetted off to Napa Valley for a very busy 3.5 days. We were on a red-eye back so I could be at work. Woah. I’m prepping a competition post so that’ll be soon. This month wasn’t a non-stop menu of new and exciting things, but a few fun things came out!
These Hashbrown Waffles topped with a fried egg and everything bagel seasoning was so good. I love these and am glad to have a few in the freezer for another time.
I made cute little sandwiches of crispy chicken, smoked gouda, and apple. They were so good I made them another time to blog them for you!
I had been very into ciders but the trip to Napa revived my interest in wine. Next month I’ll share a post about the final burger competition, a butternut squash soup, and a few others. November also brings the blog-a-versary and a new “year of the ___” and goals. Stay tuned!
The Baby Girl:
She loves life. She’s happy to play and be outside. Anything brother does makes her smile. We’ve been at the play kitchen a lot and she’s obsessed with dolls. She has a Cabbage Patch baby and my Raggedy Ann. Apparently she “owns” the dolls at daycare- she won’t let anyone else use them. I think some teeth are bothering her so she’s been a bit more testy. Baby C eats everything. She loves avocado, cream cheese & jelly sandwiches, and meatballs. She’s being Minnie for Halloween!
The Little Boy:
He’s so into The Beatles right now. It is adorable. He grabbed a book at the library – possibly because the cover was so colorful with a British flag. Then we listened to some in the car and he asks to listen daily. His favs are: Come Together; Here Comes the Sun; and All You Need is Love. Some meals take him absolutely for-ev-er. What’s the trick around that? Soccer has been great. We went apple picking, got pumpkins, and have played outside a lot. He’s being Mickey for Halloween!
Year of ___ decluttering/minimizing/organizing: Mr. J saved us this month! He got a travel mug organizer and a sink organizer which is helping us clear off the counters- it is a work in progress for sure.
Feeding Littles: We shoot for some meatless meals and this is a fav with Szechuan beefless strips over brown rice and some snow peas.
Work on advanced food prepping:
What I’m reading: I read Where the Crawdads Sing for bookclub.
What I’m watching: On the plane I watched Bohemian Rhapsody. Together we watched the movie Yesterday which was a fun one – and so timely with the little guy so interested in the Beatles.
Everything can be waffle-ized! I’ll admit, these could be pan fried like a potato pancake, but 1) I hate the splatter and patience of frying things and b) these get so delightfully crispy on the waffle iron. Waffle nooks & crannies to be filled with egg yolk? Sign. Me. Up.
I didn’t win the big burger competition but I’ll put together a post about that soon! For now, here’s an anytime meal I whipped up before we left for the competition.
I made these for a weekend dinner- mostly for time sake, but they’re screaming: BRUNCHHH! I also made enough for another time and dropped some in the freezer for a rainy day. I used leftover cheese sauce I had in the freezer from homemade mac & cheese but have leftover queso (does anyone have leftovers?) use that! Have a can of Cambell’s canned cheddar cheese sauce (use half a can with a 1/4 cup of milk)? Use that!
Waffle-ized Hash Browns Topped with a Fried Egg & Everything Bagel Seasoning
Ingredients: (for ~4 full waffles, ~8 servings)
6 cups of frozen shredded hash browns (~2/3 of a 30oz bag)
2 cups shredded cheddar
1 cup cheese sauce
salt & pepper
3 teaspoons everything bagel seasoning
eggs (1-2 per serving)
Mix together the hash browns, shredded cheese, cheese sauce, eggs, salt & pepper.
Preheat the waffle iron (or a skillet with oil) and preheat the oven to keep the “waffles” warm.
Heavily spray the waffle iron with non-stick spray- more than for a waffle.
Scoop about 3/4 of a cup onto the waffle iron and spread the hash browns out (spread more than for a waffle).
Cook on the waffle iron for ~5-7 minutes as the waffle iron instructs (mine gets filled, then tilted in the opposite direction to cook for 4 minutes, but these need longer than the waffle).
Keep the waffles warm and re-spray and reload the iron, repeating to use all the mixture.
In a separate pan, fry the eggs sunny-side up or over easy, as you like.
Top half a waffle with an egg, per serving, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and everything bagel seasoning.
Not into eggs? Slice an avocado! Cut them into quarters, melt a slice of cheese onto the egg and add the top waffle piece for a sandwich!
What do you get when you cross a dinner timesaver with all the fall flavors? Answer: crispy chicken sandwiches with gouda, apple, mustard, and arugula. These were so quick for dinner one night – then again for lunch another day annnnd they use some of the bajillion apples we have.
Crispy Chicken Sandwiches with Gouda & Apples
Ingredients: (for 4, serves 2-3 people)
4 pieces of breaded chicken (I used frozen chicken tenders, or make your own)
3 tablespoons dijon mustard or honey mustard
1 large apple
4 rolls (I used finger rolls, shoot for the same size as your chicken)
1-2 cups arugula
4 slices of smoked gouda
Bake the chicken (until cooked through, or as the package instructs).
Slice the apple into thin slices.
Spread the mustard onto the rolls then add arugula, and apple slices.
Lay the gouda onto the chicken to melt the last minute of cooking.
Add the chicken onto the sandwiches.
I also like reminding the little ones that foods can be different all the time. We don’t just eat the apples off the core, here they are with other food!
I entered a burger competition not thinking a ton about it. Build a Better Burger by Sutter Home made me think I wouldn’t get picked, but maybe I’d get some wine! I then heard I’d be in the regional finals and I won! I couldn’t believe it! I have the national finals coming up in just a few weeks. It was exciting and nerve-racking.
I had never done something like this before! Cooking everything outside- with a set time was tricky!
I entered my Parisian Burger, circa 2014 (which deserves a reshoot for the blog). It is ground pork with rosemary & dijon with arugula, swiss, truffle mayo, and a fried egg on a brioche bun. Had I thought more about the possibility of cooking an egg on the grill, I might have planned otherwise! The eggs came out well though.
The regional finals:
There were 5 regional finals, each with 4 contestants. The winner from each goes to the national finals – that’s me! We had 60 minutes to cook 4 burgers for the judges + 1 display. The judges were 3 chefs and a former Red Sox player. The competition was outside Fenway Park then we got tickets to the game!
Racing a plate to the display felt like all the Food Network shows I watch!
We got a gift card to cover travel (so for me, that was parking but my competitors were from NH, Jersey, CT) and we got a gift card for our ingredients.
Cooking eggs on a skillet, on a grill is tricky. I also didn’t want the eggs hanging around forever before serving, so cooking them in batches worked out pretty well.
When they announced the winner I was super nervous. It was a long few hours of arriving, prepping, cooking, and waiting. I felt proud. This was all new to me so I just hoped to be ton time and produce my burger the best I could. I knew it’d be subjective for the judging so I just wanted to feel good about it. I couldn’t believe it when they announced it.
I was really thankful to have Mr. J there with me. He calms me down and was the perfect support I needed.
Next up, the national finals:
In just a few weeks Mr. J and I are heading to Napa for wine & the final competition. Can you believe it? One of the 5 regional finals will win $25,000! Fingers crossed! We are so psyched for a few days in Napa! Follow along on instagram (@emilyran) and I’ll try to get photos for a post about the trip & the final round!
Wooo-eeee! September was a whirl-wind!
September’s hype was the burger competition! I can’t believe it. I won! I literally entered because I thought ‘hmm. they won’t pick my burger but maybe they’ll send me some wine!’ I wanted more and more details so it was a bit clouded in mystery but it went really well. I practiced a few times. The timing (60 minutes to make burgers for 4 judges and 1 display) – exactly as entered was boarder-line too long. It was fun but nerve-wracking. I was proud and glad it all went well.
In addition to practicing my burger, I made this honey mustard chicken salad and loved it best in lettuce wraps – but of course it was delicious in a croissant! It was a fun back-to-school timing of lunch.
This Easiest Peach Cobbler was such a fun dessert. I made a small portion and am due to throw the other half together – maybe blueberry next!
I made a flatbread with naan, arugula, cherries and parmesan. It was such a fun lunch. It has this impression of being super special but couldn’t be easier.
The Baby Girl:
She seems so big! She’s so strong and adjusted ok to the switch to milk. She’s a fantastic eater. She loves it all. I can’t get over the volume she’s eating! The other night she ate a BBQ chicken thigh, most of a corn cob, and about 1/3 cup of rice. She loves the swings, following big brother around, and taking things out of whatever they’re in.
The Little Boy:
He’s loving his new school! I can’t get over how much he’s learning. We did it because the biggest learning curve is meeting new people and adapting to new routines. He’s doing so great! He just taught me about fiction books and how he does big kid math! We’re so proud of him making friends and being himself – what more could we ask for?! Pasta is his #1, of course. He loves that his new school isn’t nut-free so PB&J it is! He’s super into Italian dressing which seems funny and talking a lot about fish so we’ve had salmon, coconut shrimp, and crispy fish tacos.
Year of ___ decluttering/minimizing/organizing: I should get back on it. We’re done with bottles so I’m hoping to find somebody who wants them!
Feeding Littles: I reflected on introducing little ones to new foods – like blue cheese dressing!
Work on advanced food prepping: We went for easy while super busy at work and a cold that passed along amongst us.
What I’m reading: I read Pachinko for bookclub.
What I’m watching: We watched the movie Vice which was so good.
I love the simplicity most about this flatbread. It has some special touches but is wayyy easier than it seems! The cherries were frozen- with the pits already removed! They can pretty much thaw on the counter while everything else is prepping! What a great way to get another color of the food rainbow in!
Cherry, Arugula & Parmesan Flatbread
4 naan (I used wheat)
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
3 cups baby arugula
1/4 cup shaved parmesan
1/2 cup dark cherries, frozen
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, or a toaster oven to toast the naan for 5-8 minutes, until crisping on the edges but still soft.
Toss the arugula in olive oil with salt & pepper.
Spread cream cheese on each piece of naan and sprinkle arugula, parmesan, and cherries on top.
Slice & enjoy!
This takes 10 minutes and I can picture munching it on a patio at a restaurant who’d ask $18 for it. I love the cherries contrasting the arugula and parm. The cherries are a great smoothie addition for leftovers or are fantastic on yogurt.
I use naan for the fastest weeknight pizzas ever. This week is nutty at work with an event this weekend so I planned some quick pizzas on naan for a weeknight meal and my Thursday night self thanks that Sunday planning self! Naan pizzas freeze well too if prepping in advance – not an arugula flatbread, but go for it with traditional toppings! I also found tiny naans that are a great kid size for lunches too!
Winner winner, chicken
dinner lunch! This was SO good and perfect if you’re packing lunches! Our pre-schooler loves honey mustard so he was my inspiration! I made a batch for a few servings – one decadently in a croissant, and some another time as a lettuce wrap.
If you’re thinking you don’t do chicken salad, I urge you to try this one. The honey mustard and lettuce make it seem like a salad and it is such a great use of leftover chicken or to liven up lunch! It is a great use for dark meat if that’s not your fav- at our house, we seek leftover options for white meat since that’s often dried out & has less flavor.
Honey Mustard Chicken Salad
Ingredients: (for 3-4 servings)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup yellow mustard
3 tablespoons mayo
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
salt & pepper
1/2 roasted chicken, torn or forked apart (~2 cups of chicken)
Whisk together the honey, mustard, mayo, and garlic- or shake together in a jar.
(If using as a salad dressing – add a splash of olive oil whisked in. It’ll be too thick otherwise!)
Add the chicken into the bowl and gently mix.
Sprinkle in salt & pepper and mix.
Refrigerate until serving, or enjoy immediately on a sandwich, salad, open-faced on toast, or in a lettuce wrap!
This is so easy, can be made in advance, and eat it all different ways. I packed some separately and spooned it onto romaine lettuce as a lettuce wrap at work. That worked out really well.
And by peach, I always mean nectarine, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it. I don’t do peach fuzz but eat lots ‘o nectarines. This is a foolproof dessert…that comes from a non-baker. It was fantastic to make a tiny one or make a full size one for a crowd! I loved it and will whip it up again soon- I’m thinking blueberries before it is apple season! The little dude thinks chocolate, but it won’t work the same.
There are lots of “dump cakes” around the internet. I just had to share because who doesn’t need a foolproof dessert option in your back pocket?! Also, it’d be easy to make 2 varsities at the same time if you don’t want half a box of cake mix hanging around until your next one!
Easiest Fruit Cobbler
Ingredients: (serves ~4)
2 teaspoons of white sugar
1/2 box cake mix
1/2 stick of butter
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Slice the peaches and lay into a small baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray (a pie plate or 9×9 would work).
Sprinkle the peaches with sugar then sprinkle half the cake mix onto the peaches.
Slice the butter and lay slices across the top.
Bake for ~20 minutes. Check that the whole top is getting nicely brown. Bake another 5 if needed for a light brown crust.
Enjoy! Serve warm or room temperature.
The little guy had this twice and I had it about 3 times. We added whipped cream on top and loved it. He liiiiives for dessert and it was fun to have something special/different and fitting for the season without making a ton. Mr. J would head towards ice cream or an Oreo before this- unless served at a dinner party or holiday etc.
Frozen fruit (peaches, mixed berries, cherries, blueberries) would be great too and make it super convenient to whip up quickly. I tucked the other half of the cake mix away for another day but need to keep this these ratios in mind!