Edible Gifts for the Summer

I’ve been working on some favors/parting gifts for some of my summer work events with a foodie crowd and was just so jazzed about them that I a) want to be a Pinterest-aficionado in my personal life and b) want to host all the food themed parties! Until either one happens, here are some favorites should you be in the market for a hostess gift, a party favor, or a consumable treat!

Infused sea salts:
I saw so many out there if you’re looking to purchase them already to give: This sampler looks great to tie a Thank You note to & let guests guests choose their own flavor!
Etsy SullivanTeaShop
I also totally want to make my own for personal use. Pinterest seems to think it is super easy…we’ll see how THAT goes. Sea Salt + dried herbs from my garden seems pretty fun to me! Can I dry my own herbs? We shall see! They’re flourishing so I might tackle it!

Grilling Rub: 
I’m giving grill rub out at 2 work events this summer. Because of the quantities, I got fun tiny tins & baggies for packaging of the house rub Chef uses on meat, fish, and vegetables. There are tons of recipes that are super cheap to make yourself (versus buying pre-made rub). Measuring & mixing dried herbs seems pretty foolproof!

Cookies:
My co-worker made these chocolate dipped shortbread cookies for a Bridal Tea Party. Sooo cute! I’m not really a baker, but what a lovely touch if you are baking inclined!
Tea Party
Mr. J’s birthday present included a “year of snacks/treats”. June’s theme was “hot & cold” which translated to ice cream sundae toppings of sea-salt caramel sauce, hot fudge, sprinkles, cherries, whipped cream, etc. July was “shareable” and I made loaded waffle fries that we enjoyed for dinner one night. I looove the gift of food!

Happy eating! Maybe this is the nudge I need to whip up some of my own BBQ rubs & spice mixes.

Independence Day Checklist

I’m so looking forward to this holiday long weekend. If you haven’t already planned a festive meal or two here’s what I 100% recommend:

You need burgers: 
I make lotssss of burgers. My favs are Ranch Chicken Burgers (also serves well over salad if you have a health-conscious crowd), or Parisian Burgers (not as easy for a large crowd).

I love a build-your-own when hosting. Set out a burger bar with lots of fun toppings. I just did this with sliders and posted a few I recommended (a frame with Cowboy Burger = BBQ sauce + cheddar + caramelized onions & a few others).

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You need a side: 
Plan a fun one + a super easy/hands-off/crowd pleaser.
Roasted Beets & Potatoes is a good one that can sit out for quite awhile.
Ramen Salad with Broccoli Slaw is so addicting.
Basil Vinaigrette for Orzo, Tomato, and mozzarella salad is so great with any shape pasta for the idea of caprese.
The Three Bite Rule - Basil Vinaigrette Dressing for Orzo Salad
Most are easy enough to throw together in advance, or can be something deliciously simple like really cold watermelon or baked beans you added a tough of sriracha to or liquid smoke to. Serve in a crockpot to heat & serve all at once.

You need a signature beverage:
Rosemary Hard Lemonade is an easy one to pre-mix in a pitcher OR to serve the alcohol on the side for guests to mix to order for a cocktail versus mocktail. Don’t worry about a whole bar.

The Three Bite Rule - Rosemary Hard Lemonade
Freeze some lemonade ice cubes to go with ice tea for the best Arnold Palmer out there!

You need some snacks: 
A burrata & crostini bar is definitely fun, though maybe too much if you’re then serving a whole meal. Keep it simple!
My 100% crowd pleaser is this suuuuper easy Greek Dip: Hummus + tomato/cuke/pepper tossed with dressing + feta, served with pita chips or wheat thins.
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Also put out some chips. Done.

You need some dessert: 
I’d totally farm this out to one of your guests, but if you are compelled to serve something, vanilla ice cream with strawberries & blueberries (maybe pop open a jar of salted caramel sauce!) seems wayy better than a flag cake you’ve seen 100 times on pinterest.
Or these Peanut butter & Jelly bars are pretty awesome, and fool-proof plus you can make ‘em in advance.
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You’ll have wayyy more fun if you are a happy host. Prep in advance, put the first to arrive to work…then they won’t feel awkward. Have some tunes already on, offer them a drink, then say “sure, you can carry this out to that table”. It puts everyone at ease.

My fav hosting tips:
1) make a list & prioritize your prep. I literally number what has to happen first so I can have things pretty much cleaned up before guests arrive.

2) know what you’re serving in what vessel. I lay the bag of chips into the bowl they’re going in so it is ready, out of the way, and so I’m not standing on a chair reaching for a bowl while trying to chat with somebody. See also: putting your guests to work.

3) get showered & dressed early enough. It is easier to slice your watermelon with guests there than it is to be dripping wet & in a towel when somebody arrives!

4) a sign I’m getting old: wear some good shoes if you’re spending the morning grabbing the cooler from the attic, wiping off the patio furniture, chopping veggies, etc. You then won’t be pooped when it comes time to party!

5) keep it simple enough to actually accomplish. You don’t need to offer 8 sides or accommodate 100 things each guest would like to eat. I like anything I can make in advance, and to be balanced enough that there’s something fun to eat but also that I’m not ready for a nap when the time actually comes. Not hosting an actual meal is pretty great too. I just hosted a happy-hour get together with: a top-your-own crostini station; fruit with yogurt dip; chips & goldfish. I offered sangria & some summer beer. It was so easy.

Bonus) some little details are really worth it. Setting the mood by playing music & offering a drink are so great when people first arrive. Set out sunlotion/bugspray/towels or whatever everyone might need before they need it (ditto on the spare toilet paper). Label your food so people don’t have to ask you what’s what (multi-ingredient foods, or drinks in pitchers- especially when containing alcohol, or if you have lots of offerings). I think themes come together best when mapped out- I print suggested combos & pop them into frames to help. I like things in writing so I can actually talk to people…a note for what is trash/recycling for you, or “more drinks inside” or “come on around, we’re out back” or whatever is helpful.

Happy hosting!

June 2016 Recap

This was such a good month! It was good for food, good for the little one, good for some fun family time, and such beautiful weather. I’m really loving this summer. The babe is such a fun age and he’s so happy to play, and go outside, and see things. It is so lovely not to be stressed about work events. I’ve been so glad to have some fun weekend plans and pool time. Mr. J is on an earlier train home which is ahh-mazing.

Mr. J’s annual birthday burger was a hit! I made a mac & cheese stuffed burger topped with caramelized onions & tomato.
The Three Bite Rule - Mac & Cheese Stuffed Burger
I seemed to be all about the breakfast with these sleepy pigs and blankets.
The Three Bite Rule - Sleepy Pigs in Blankets
And this peanut butter & nutella stuffed french toast.
The Three Bite Rule - PB Nutella French Toast
I don’t always focus on the side dishes but this quick bacon blue cheese pasta salad was a fun one.
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon Blue Cheese Pasta Salad
The little One: 
He’s so into playing outside. I got a lawn mower toy at a yard sale for a $1 and he loooves “mowing” the driveway. More than that, Mr. J assembled such a sweet swing set area for him just the other day. T could play there forever. We’re reading books non-stop. He’ll read about 7 in a row! He has more and more words coming. He starts waterplay at daycare and I know he’ll love it. He’s eating all things (minus eggs). Strawberry picking was a HIT. He ate his weight in strawberries.

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2016 Goals:

The Year of the: Seasonal Decor I got a red/white/blue bucket to be a napkin holder. My town is seriously into flag day so I’ll have to stock up.
do something a different way: I fit in more weeknight activities which helps me feel like I’m making the most of the summer.
drink more water: yes, I got a new water bottle and it has me totally drinking about 20 oz more water than usual each day.
make more interesting side dishes: yes! These corn & zucchini fritters were fun.
cook more soups & sauces: uh-huh! This sundried tomato pesto sauce was really great.
watch more movies: we watched Our Brand is Crisis
make working out a higher priority: I’m trying to not hate running. I’m keeping the runs short and do-able. I’ve spaced them out and am listening to my fav podcasts. So far so good. We’ll see what happens.

How to Meal Plan in 5 steps

I was just hearing from some very intelligent folks that figuring out what to make for dinner is just so hard. I view meal planning like a puzzle. You need to have the pieces and see where they can go. If they aren’t in the right spot, you move it around until it clicks. It can seem daunting but you need to start somewhere.

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1) Know Your Audience:
Think about who likes what, who wants leftovers available, and who will be making what throughout the week. Also who would be likely to eat what. When feeding the little one, I go for something familiar with something new, or variety. Variety is key.

2) Look at Your Schedule/Weather and Write Out Your Plan for the Week:
I literally even schedule in leftovers or “anything goes” or breakfast. Not every day needs to be the. perfect. meal. or something totally new. Write it on a scrap of paper from the recycling, or onto a calendar, or on an app, or whatever works for you. I use a marker board calendar in the kitchen. I move the meals around depending what happens but seeing them in writing helps us.

3) Start with a Few Categories:
To keep some variety, I’ll usually use a few categories to get me going. Salad, Burritos, Pasta, Panini, Omelette, Burger, etc. Picking a few helps me figure out a bit of a starting point. You could do the same with ethnicities: Italian/Greek/Mexican/etc. It’d also be fun to give characteristics like baked/crunchy/raw/grilled/cheesy/etc.

4) Don’t feel like every part has to be the star:
If the main dish needs your attention, give yourself a break on the side dish(s). Couscous cooks in 5 minutes. Raw peppers or cukes to dip into salad dressing or hummus = an instant summer side.

5) Track your favs and keep a list somewhere.
Pintest can be helpful with boards by category or a board of pins to try versus tried & true. I keep a list on my phone of ideas from menus or magazines or cooking shows or whatever. If you pull recipes out of magazines then a binder might be helpful.

Do you plan your meals? What works for you? 

May 2016 Recap

I did NOT cook that much in May. Normally I have a few interesting items here and there but I thoroughly enjoyed slooooowly getting back to real life after my work event. I had some fun restaurant excursions to Stoked for wood-fired pizza and to Tres Gatos for tapas! I’m all about the fast-ish dinners now that it is nice out and it is more fun to take walks through the neighborhood, or play in driveway with T & his yard-sale bubble mower, or whatever. Mr. J has a new train schedule and gets home earlier -woohoo! I love whenever we can all eat at the same time!

Let’s pause for the sous-chefs who have not had a blog appearance until just lately:
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I was really proud of the ramen burgers! I kind of can’t believe the ramen buns stayed together! It was such a fun one to try! I loved the teryiaki & green onions on a burger.
The Three Bite Rule - Ramen Burger
I loved a quickie flatbread pizza with turkey kielbasa, sweet potato, red onion, and a mustard sauce. It was so perfectly fast and some variety to my typical dinner flavors. The babe loooves sweet potato so having some leftover was great.
The Three Bite Rule - Kielbasa & Sweet Potato Pizza
Puff pastry has such an important place in my heart. I always love it. This eggplant parm pockets were so fun and cooking the eggplant the night before made them even easier. This meat-less meal was spot on and perfectly portioned!
The Three Bite Rule - Eggplant Parmesan in Puff Pastry

The Little One: 
He’s so funny right now. I mean, we always think he’s funny. That’s rule 1 of being a parent. He seems like such a little kid rather than a baby now! We just got him crocs and they’re just the cutest. He loves playing outside and his current favorite toys are books (especially this strawberry one & this truck one), mega blocks, and cardboard boxes. He’s not so into the talking & words but I can’t get over how much he knows. He will go retrieve a specific toy or book when we ask for it, he correctly identifies which dog is which, he knows some body parts, and will mimic some words when we say them like go, milk, choo-choo, beep, etc. T is still a rockstar-sleeper and still eating well. Fingers crossed he keeps both up!

This guy rockin’ the bed-head, pre-haircut last week:
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2016 Goals:

The Year of the: Seasonal Decor I’m counting it, I got this watercolor flower print on wood and love it.
do something a different way: I’ve been focused on putting things where they belong, in the moment. Otherwise I find myself straightening up later which seems like more work.
drink more water: yup, going strong especially with no coffee until 10oz of water…at least on weekdays
make more interesting side dishes: nope
cook more soups & sauces: nah
watch more movies: we just laughed our way through Sisters
make working out a higher priority: Mr. J’s train is earlier so I’m been pretty good about getting up and moving before waking the little one. Plus, work is starting a walking challenge going so I’m psyched to see that.

April 2016 Recap

April whizzed past me. I didn’t cook a ton nor did I get to blog much. I kind of spent the month either super busy at work, trying to keep up with everything, plus a sweet little vacay to Florida.

I was sooo into the cherry “cheesecake” yogurt breakfast I made. It was really good and prepping in advance, made for a more lovely breakfast on a weekday!
The Three Bite Rule - Cheery "Cheesecake" Greek Yogurt Parfait
These Baked Monte Cristo pockets felt like the best-fast-dinner-ever. I was so happy with them. They added some fun-ness, variety, and an insta-dinner that I know I needed to get back into the groove. Weeknight dinners with minimal prep are the best!
The Three Bite Rule - Baked Monte Cristo

Next month I’ll totally get back to normal and back into the kitchen once I come up for air at work!
2016 Goals:
The Year of the: Seasonal Decor ehh. nothing in April.
do something a different way: hmm. I’m not sure I did this.
drink more water: yup, I’m on it.
make more interesting side dishes: nope, nothing right now
cook more soups & sauces: I made lasagna soup!
watch more movies: you know, I don’t think we watched any!
make working out a higher priority: yup! I did an kick-boxing on demand & fit in a few morning walks before the alarm!

March 2016 Recap

March was awesome. My birthday was great. Work has been so busy but I also know April is only going to get crazier. The little one is busy, active, and loving the toddler class at daycare. I am not loving that they make glitter crafts almost weekly. What. The. Heck. Who gives toddlers glitter? I thought I had years before that would happen.

I’m glad it feels like spring is coming though we’ve had a random mix of temperatures. I’ve been mixing the “have to eat the last wintery foods” with “bring on lighter and fresher flavors!” I have probably never been so ready for an April getaway we have planned to take the little one to Florida. I’m sad Downton Abby is over but we’ve really gotten into The People V. OJ Simpson show. The last week we’ve been super sick so I think now all of us are on the mend. So-over the runny noses x3.

One of my favorite things I made this whole month was a Nutella Cafe Au Lait that I didn’t really plan on, but was SO fun. I totally have to froth milk at home more often. Try it, 30 seconds of shaking in a jar and 30 seconds in the microwave.
Nutella Cafe Au Lait - The Three Bite Rule
Another fav was, hands down, this caesar asparagus. So good. I’d eat just this and be so happy.
The Three Bite Rule - Caesar Asparagus

2016 Goals:
The Year of the: Seasonal Decor My sis stocked me up with some Easter decor for my bday! I don’t even know what April should be.
do something a different way: I’m making sure not to apologize for things I’m asking for. At work I found I often started emails apologizing for things I am following up on because the other person never responded. Have you seen the commercials?
drink more water: I’m doing OK drinking more, I could always improve.
make more interesting side dishes: yes! This Caesar Asparagus was the best side. I tried a fried mashed potato cake that failed miserably.
cook more soups & sauces: I made chimichurri on shrimp for a salad.
watch more movies: we watched The Martian, Zero Dark Thirty, The Big Short, and Steve Jobs.
make working out a higher priority: ehh, not really but now that it is light out later, I’ve fit in a few more walks.

Current Favorite Foodie Things

Today is my birthday!!! Yay! In my own honor, here are 5 of my current food favs.

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1) I’m all about the pressure cooker at the moment. Hands down, my fav kitchen appliance. (sorry coffee maker, you’ll always have a place in my heart). Goodbye slow cooker!

2) Birthday freebies & bday wishes! So far, I’ve received bday wishes with gifts of free burritos, free sundae, $5 off, or clothes discounts! Always include your bday on store info (or if your bday falls around major gift giving time maybe choose a random one when you’d need to treat yourself)!

3) Mr. J making really awesome dinners. He’s been perfecting the frittata the last two weeks. Both have been awesome, in my opinion. The babe loves them too.

4) Bottled sangria. I got this sangria as a hostess gift and we LOVED it. I found a tasty white one at Whole Foods and just purchased one from Trader Joe’s…that one is up next!

5) This salsa. Winner winner, taco dinner! It is much closer to pico de gallo than anything else I’ve found. I was on a quest trying lots of different salsas and this one wins.

See ya after the famous chocolate ring of coconut fudge cake with the fam this weekend!

February 2016 Recap

February coming to an end means my birthday is just around the corner!! I’m so excited for my birthday this year. Last year my bday was kinda crappy. I was by myself during the day and Baby T screamed all. day. long. I ate a frozen burrito by myself while Mr. J took the babe off my hands at night. That wasn’t our easiest time and everything got better a few weeks later. I did have a fun & festive fam bday last year that was graciously brought to my house. Anywho, I’m living the dream now so bring it on!

Mr. J and I went to fancy-pants brunch for Valentine’s Day at Aquitaine which was so lovely and I also surprised him with a date night to Pastoral this month.

I was quite into the pressure cooker this month! #obsessed I made lentils with carrots and spinach that was a really ideal base to get topped with a quickly seared chicken sausage. That is a perfect weeknight dinner! Then I made a show-stopping Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic & Cherries.
The Three Bite Rule - Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic & Cherries
With a few little snow-storms and then random warm (aka 50-degree days in February) there was quite the mix. One warm day we made some burgers that I still wanted to seem like winter burgers. I topped them with dried cranberries and topped with brie and lemon aioli. Ooo la la!
The Three Bite Rule - Burger with Brie & Cranberries
I fell off the savory-breakfast bandwagon but made little puff pastry egg cups that were addicting!
The Three Bite Rule - Puff Pastry Cups with Eggs and Spinach

2016 Goals:
The Year of the: Seasonal Decor I was treated by an awesome Etsy shop Urban Fringe Living to a Valentine’s Day sign! I am so in LOVE.
do something a different way: I’ve tried alternative routes from work to see what is fastest to get to daycare. I didn’t find a better one, but you never know until you try! Another “different” was picking up Mr. J at work to surprise him for a date-night! We had amazing pizzas at Pastoral and I loved every second.
drink more water: I’m doing well. I never seem to get above 50 oz, but that’s OK with me.
make more interesting side dishes: Ohh yeah. Caesar brussels sprouts for the win! These lentils with veggies were good too!
cook more soups & sauces: ehh. I missed this one this month.
watch more movies: This month Mr. J and I watched Tammy, Good Will Hunting, and Trainwreck
make working out a higher priority: I’m back into some classes at the gym. I went to a zumba class with a different instructor who was AH-mazing. I also joined some Fitbit challenges which got me moving more.

January 2016 Recap

It is official. I have a 1-year old. I think it went by sooo fast. Mr. J feels like since the little one has changed so much that it seems about right. T is so funny right now. He LOVED the cake…mashing it, eating it, and having frosting hands. The Little Man Party was fun and he’s one lucky guy. WE are a lucky family.

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January is off to a good start. I’ve used the pasta attachment 2x and the pressure cooker at least 2x…maybe 3? I love that thing. Dinner has to be super fast, or prepped in advance. That’s the only way it can happen after getting home from work, the little one wanting to eat ASAP, tub time, and bedtime. For now, the babe eats with me and then sits with us while we eat for a few minutes….that point of his patience is low. He’s onto drinking whole milk and pretty soon we’ll be off bottles. Woohoo!

This super quick Greek Flatbread with hummus, chicken sausage, feta, and arugula was one of my favorite things this month. It would work well as a wrap too, depending on your preference!
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Hummus Flatbreads
I’ve been on this bfast quest for weekday savory breakfasts. I had hoped to sneak one more in this week, but alas, I had a cold this weekend and didn’t cook a ton. These breakfast bowls have cracked wheat, bacon, egg, and everything-bagel seasoning. So fun! You could use rice, beans, lentils, barley, oatmeal? or whatever strikes your fancy.
The Three Bite Rule - Breakfast Bowls
My other fav this month was a Mexican-inspired BLT with a smear of refried beans and taco-spiced aioli. Sooo good. I served these guys with Mexican Street Corn that I made in the morning before work. Then I used the leftover beans to make bean & cheese quesadillas for the little one. He loved them!
The Three Bite Rule - Mexican BLTs

I’ll keep the savory breakfast going…I have a few more ideas I didn’t get to yet! 

2016 Goals:
The Year of the: Seasonal Decor I got the birthday string, thank you Target Dollar Section! and this awesome tree…so perfect for some “winter” decor versus Christmas.
do something a different way: ehh. I’m not sure where I was going with this, but switching the little one to a big-guy carseat and to milk means we definitely aren’t stuck in old ways of doing things!
drink more water: I’m tracking it, which at least makes me aware, and I’m making sure to get 10 oz in before coffee. #winning
make more interesting side dishes: yes! This risotto was so great!
cook more soups & sauces: I made broccoli & cheddar soup while it was snowing…that seemed appropriate.
watch more movies: we went to the movies 200% more than the last few months! I saw Mocking Jay and Spotlight in the theatres. We watched Foxcatcher, Inside Out, and 22 Jump Street, at home too.
make working out a higher priority: ehh. Not succeeding here but I got all into some fitbit daily challenges which got me moving a bit more.