Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone

Theeeese a a few of my favorite things…

I found some frozen roasted chicken in the freezer and decided it would fare best if cooked and would be perfect in a calzone. Add my fav flavors, and thus, a meal is born. I used roasted chicken, crispy bacon, chopped tomato, alfredo sauce, ranch seasoning, and mozzarella. I felt like a rockstar to prep this 75% of the way the night before and just finish it before serving. Boo-yah.

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone

Ingredients:

pizza dough
2 cups roasted chicken
3 strips of bacon
1 1/2 cups mozzarella (mine was a mix of fresh & shredded)
3 tbs dried ranch seasoning
1 cup alfredo sauce
1 small tomato, diced

Directions:

Preheat the oven & pizza stone (if using one) to 400-degrees.
Pan fry the bacon until crispy.
Warm the chicken in a medium pan over low heat and add 1 tablespoon of the ranch seasoning.
Lay the dough onto the pan or pizza stone, off center, for the filling to go on the bottom and for the rest to fold over.
Add chicken, tomatoes, cheese, alfredo, and ranch seasoning.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone
Then repeat the layers making sure to get the filling all the way to the ends & edges.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone
Fold the rest of the dough over the filling and pinch to close. Press down slightly to push the filling throughout the inside. Cut a few slits into the top to vent.
Bake 30 minutes until browned and crisped.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone
Serve and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone
I knew we’d love this. What’s not to love? It was a perfect use for some leftover roasted chicken from the freezer (also the dough and bacon came from the freezer too). It was equally perfect that I prepped it the night before when I didn’t have to rush. I cooked it for about 20 minutes that night and just 15 minutes to serve. Dinner time is such a race against the clock and it was really nice to have this pretty ready. #winning
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone

What I Ate: Peanut Sesame Noodles

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.

I totally didn’t make this up by any means but there are lots of recipes out there. This is great warm or cold and for a very “pantry” dinner it is per-fect for those too-hot-to-be-creative or meals on a budget or what-the-heck-is-for-dinner meals. I wasn’t going to blog it, because hello, I’m sure you’ve seen this before or can find it 1,000 places. Every time I make something new and decide not to blog it I regret it. So, here’s a blogged the minute before taking a bite:

The Three Bite Rule - Peanut Sesame Noodles
I mixed it right in the bowl I served it in. This is real life. Whisk together the sauce and mess with the ratios to your taste. I used this recipe to start with. I had to share it because it was tasty and we ate every last noodle and the little guy, who was finishing dinner gobbled up a bunch of this!

Ingredients:
Spaghetti
Peanut butter
Soy sauce
Sesame Oil
rice vinegar
minced ginger
minced garlic
tiny bit of sriracha
sesame seeds & green onion to garnish

Directions:
Boil salted water for the pasta.
Whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and sriracha.
Cook the pasta to al dente.
Mix most of the sauce into the pasta. Toss and add remaining sauce.
Enjoy!

The Three Bite Rule - Peanut Sesame Noodles

It was mild but additive. Interesting but comforting. Silky but with a small crunch. So good. I used black sesame seeds I recently re-descovered from sis’ trip to Japan a while back. I’d have loved sliced cucumber, chopped peanuts, and edemame on the side. Tonight it was just this and that was lovely.

I will absolutely make this again to munch with Mr. J while we watch the little one slurp long noodles beaming with pride when the whole thing makes it into his mouth.

Maple Bacon Creamed Corn

I was totally inspired by this lunch-lady-dude on Next Food Network Star when he made maple bacon creamed corn to top with a crab cake. I wish it were time for local fresh corn, but we’re not quite there yet. Instead, this is the snazziest freezer-side-dish ever.

Maple Bacon Creamed Corn - The Three Bite Rule
We grilled some chicken to serve over this sweet and smokey creamed corn. I couldn’t believe it…the little one gobbled almost a whole chicken thigh! He tends to choose the fruits/veggies/carbs over chicken but we just keep serving it. He had some regular corn and some of this maple bacon creamed corn.

The creamed corn took the same amount of time to cook as the chicken. Perfect!

Ingredients:

2 slices of bacon
1/2 yellow onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups corn
3 tablesoons of water
1/3 cup milk or cream
2 tbs maple syrup

Directions:

Pan fry the bacon.
While the bacon is cooking, chop the onion and add the onion pieces and butter to a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Let the onions cook until soft & translucent ~8 minutes.
Add in the corn (mine was frozen), the water, syrup, and the milk.
Maple Bacon Creamed Corn - The Three Bite Rule
Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5-10 minutes.
If using frozen corn, remove about 1/3 – 1/2 and blend or food process it a little bit. Break it down a bit without totally obliterating it. Fresh corn will likely break down a bit on is own.
Maple Bacon Creamed Corn - The Three Bite Rule
Add that back in, stir, and then add in the crispy bacon.
Maple Bacon Creamed Corn - The Three Bite Rule
Stir while cooking another minute or two. Serve and enjoy!
Maple Bacon Creamed Corn - The Three Bite Rule
I loved the sweet maple-y bacon flavors with spiced grilled chicken. It was a quick & unusual side dish for us with some pretty easy grilled chicken thighs. I like a new thing to go with something hands-off/no-stress/straightforward other foods. It would have been ideal to have a sharp & peppery arugula salad with this, but this was what we could make happen. This family dinner outside was glorious.

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.
greek_dip_plate_590_390
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.

Root Beer Barbecue Sauce

I made this root beer barbecue sauce and made it very heavy on the root beer. Seriously root-beer-y. I think it jazzed up a weeknight, and definitely woke up these pork chops.
The Three Bite Rule - Root Beer BBQ Sauce

Ingredients:

1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
salt & pepper
2 cups root beer, and 1/2 cup reserved

Directions:

In a heavy pot, saute onion in a little olive oil over medium heat. Cook for about 5-minutes, until softened and translucent.
The Three Bite Rule - Root Beer BBQ Sauce
Add in garlic, ketchup, mustard, molasses, mustard, brown sugar, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar.
The Three Bite Rule - Root Beer BBQ Sauce
Add in pepper, salt, and root beer. Stir well and simmer for 45 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Root Beer BBQ Sauce
Add in the last of the root beer and remove from the heat.
Allow to cool, and enjoy!

I loved this! I think it had the root beer flavor, especially the sauce that we added after the cooking. We served it with our fav raw broccoli salad with raisins. I’m not so into cream soda, but I can see that being a hit in this too with a few tweaks.

The Three Bite Rule - Root Beer BBQ Sauce

Peanut Butter & Nutella Stuffed French Toast

I lean savory for breakfast 99% of the time but then I got this pb + nutella + french toast in my head and just couldn’t shake it. “I mean I could but why would I want to” . Sorry, that part of the song gets stuck in my head so I figured I’d stick it in yours.
The Three Bite Rule - PB Nutella French Toast

The easiest way to stuff french toast is to make a sandwich, and french-toast-ify it. Yup, that’s a thing. I made this for breakfast on Father’s Day..though it was just Mr. J and me for bfast. The little guy slept until 9:45am that Sunday. We’re so lucky. Normal is a bit more like 8am, which is also lovely. This was such a fast breakfast to make. It doesn’t even need to be a special occasion!

Peanut Butter & Nutella Stuffed French Toast (for 2)

Ingredients:

4 slices of bread (I used oatmeal bread)
4 tablespoons of peanut butter
3 tablespoons of nutella
2 tablespoons of butter
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup (plus more for serving)

Directions:

Assemble the peanut butter and nutella sandwiches.
The Three Bite Rule - PB Nutella French Toast
Preheat a large skillet or griddle pan to medium heat and add in the butter.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, extract, and maple syrup.
Dunk each sandwich into the egg mixture, flipping once, to fully saturate.
The Three Bite Rule - PB Nutella French Toast
Pan fry in the butter, flipping once to fully cook each side.
The Three Bite Rule - PB Nutella French Toast
Serve with more syrup and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - PB Nutella French Toast
We enjoyed this on the deck with coffee (and the baby monitor) on a beautiful morning. I love these two flavors together and thought it was a really great treat. It fueled us up before an adventure to pick strawberries. Yum.

The Three Bite Rule - PB Nutella French Toast

Sundried Tomato Pesto Sauce for Pork Chops

I head to the grocery store with my meal plans in mind. “Plans” might sound intense, but one of those could include a sandwich or something easy though one of my last trips still had a hole needing another meal. I saw these nifty packages in the meat department of pork cutlets with capers, sundried tomatoes, and some sort of finishing sauce. I almost grabbed it and then I cheap-ed out. The price definitely included the convenience so I decided I could replicate on my own, for wayyy cheaper.
The Three Bite Rule - Sundried Tomato Sauce for Pork

I grabbed some thin-cut boneless pork chops and remembered a jar of sundried tomato pesto in the fridge. I skipped the capers. Couscous cooks in 5 minutes + some salad. Yay for dinner!

Ingredients:

4-6 boneless thin cut pork chops
1 cup flour
1 tablespoons garlic powder
salt & pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons of sundried tomato pesto, or diced sundried tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons fresh oregano (optional)

Directions:

Preheat a large skillet to medium heat with a few generous glugs of olive oil…about 1/4 cup.
Season the flour with garlic powder, salt, and pepper then dredge the pork into the flour and add to the pan.
Cook about 4 minutes before flipping to cook another 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and finish searing all the pork.
The Three Bite Rule - Sundried Tomato Sauce for Pork
Drain the oil and discard.
Deglaze with the chicken broth scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan then add in the garlic, sundried tomato pesto, salt, pepper, and a glug or two of red wine, and chopped oregano. Cook for two minutes on medium heat.
The Three Bite Rule - Sundried Tomato Sauce for Pork
Then add the pork back into the pan. Flip each one to cover in sauce. Reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes.
Then add the pork back into the pan.
Serve over couscous, rice, beans, pasta, or however you choose. Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Sundried Tomato Sauce for Pork

I liked jazzing up some ready-made sauce to make it a bit more interesting. I don’t use sundried tomatoes all the time so it was nice to have flavors we don’t eat weekly. The sauce is a little bit oily but tasty. The pork cooks quickly and using the same pan is totally the savior for this!

While I was searing the pork, our new & nifty Nest smoke alarms were notifying us on our phones that there was smoke accumulating. I hadn’t noticed my phone but Mr. J was able to quiet it from his phone, while tub-side with the little one. Phew! The last thing we needed during the bewitching hours was Mr. J having to get T out of the tub all soapy, while dinner burned, while I got the dogs to ease their panic. I guess these things are worth it!

Food Traditions

I saw that Dinner: A Love Story came out with a new book about How to Celebrate Everything which is such a fun concept. It got me thinking about food traditions and I was feeling like by not really hosting the big family holidays at my house that I don’t have that many food traditions and then it hit me: Friday-Takeout-DVR is totally a food tradition for my little family!

For years now…at least 5 years, possibly longer, on Friday nights Mr. J and I order take-out and catch up on some DVR. It started back when there was a chance of us going out but instead we chose to stay in, ordered delivery to our 3rd flood apartment, and watched some DVR from the week. Fast-forward to now where we plan, and more specifically, look forward to this tradition. The little one will think we’re dinosaurs when we describe that back in the day we sometimes would go pick up burritos, then pick out a movie at a movie place called Blockbuster. Ancient concept I tell ya. We schedule meals Monday – Thursday and Friday is our standing tradition.

::in my head I’m singing Tra-dition! Tradition!! a la Fiddler on the roof::

I think the combo of time for just the two of us together + the treat + the convenience of somebody arriving at our home with a sack of some deliciousness all wrapped up + DVR = now time-honored and just so special to us. The little guy goes to bed anywhere from 7:30-8 and falls asleep quickly so by then we’ve sat with him for his dinner, maybe played outside a little bit, got him into jammies and ordered food all timed so it’ll arrive once he’s in bed. I looooove family dinners when we either all eat together but this one night a week, adult dinners are set on the coffee table with the remote between. It is so fun for us home-bodies.

My fav parts:
1) the take-out selection:
A complex algorithm Sometimes this involves figuring who ate what for lunch so we don’t order the same category for dinner. Sometimes we narrow down by a few ideas texted with emojis. Sometimes we look towards the weekend to determine if we want leftovers for Saturday lunch. There’s only one place I can get a good Buffalo Chicken Wrap, so, there’s that.

2) the anticipation of food’s arrival
We peek out the windows, rationalize that it has to come soon, and judge the slow cars as possibilities. One person signs for it and this also includes somebody playing defense to keep the doggies away from door so they/Bailee doesn’t bark her head-off waking the little one.

3) Barely-any clean up. Enough said.

4) Amazing Race/Cutthroat Kitchen/Treehouse Masters/etc on DVR. Mutually agree-ed upon shows…no Bachelorette or River Monsters. It is a mindless few hours before seeing if I can stay awake for Dateline…also known as, the only show we ever watch-live.

I love the evolution of this. It started when we were young, was much appreciated while I was pregnant, and is equally cherished after putting the little guy to bed. What’s not to love?

I have a few food traditions in mind:
Father’s Day: the little one to picks out a fancy dessert for Father’s Day + a card/homemade card, in lieu of gifts
Mother’s Day: is it approved that I should ask for a breakfast sandwich + card/homemade card, in lieu of gifts?
First Day of School: sugary cereal that isn’t normally an option
Birthdays: Individually selected personal-treat-stash isn’t normally an option
Summer surprise night of going out for ice cream sundaes for dinner when it is just. too. hot.

Hmm. I might need a doughnut birthday cake for the weekend-day closest to my birthday. You know, I live for birthdays.

 

Mac & Cheese Stuffed Burger

Ohh yes I did. Mr. J’s birthday burger was a Mac & Cheese Stuffed Burger! I’ve tried in the past making fried mac & cheese fritter to top a burger with, but haven’t had luck keeping it together. Stuffing it was a success! We topped them with bacon jam, caramelized onions, and sliced tomato.

The Three Bite Rule - Mac & Cheese Stuffed Burger

Ingredients:

1 box prepared mac & cheese (w/ butter & milk. There will be extra, also known as a side)
1/2 pound ground meat (I used ground pork for mine & ground beef for Mr. J’s)
1 slice of cheddar (or shredded)
buns
suggested toppings: caramelized onions, bacon/bacon bits/bacon jam, tomato slices

Directions:

Prepare the Mac & Cheese according to your package. Then refrigerate at least 10 minutes stirring a few times to cool it down.
The Three Bite Rule - Mac & Cheese Stuffed Burger
Divide the meat into 2 halves and form the ground meat into a ball for each burger. Pull off about 1/3 to become the “cover”. Form the remainder of each into a patty.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of mac & cheese onto the center of each patty.

The Three Bite Rule - Mac & Cheese Stuffed Burger
Add some extra sliced or grated cheese.
The Three Bite Rule - Mac & Cheese Stuffed Burger
Place the remaining ground meat ontop and pinch with the edges of the patty. Work it with your hands to really connect the top to the patty. Form it into a ball and then flatten a bit.
Grill to cook through. The meat is thin but you want to be sure the meat cooks all the way through without any raw meat amongst the mac & cheese.
Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Mac & Cheese Stuffed Burger
This was a fun one. It definitely felt unusual and like a good choice for a birthday burger. The little one got a head-start on dinner but then I gave him some mac and cheese when we were eating and he loved it! I mean, who doesn’t, but like father like son!

Happy Birthday Burger Mr. J!

Here’s the history of the Birthday Burgers:
2015 it was a Picnic Burger with slaw & potato sticks
2014 it was a German Burger with horseradish, caramelized onions, pickles and a pretzel roll
2013 it was a Vermont Burger with maple mayo, cheddar, bacon, and spinach
2012 it was a Bacon Wrapped Burger
2011 it was a Stuffed Burger stuffed with bacon & cheddar or bacon & blue cheese