December 2019 Recap

Woo-eee! December was bus-y! We loved it all. Dinners were more minimal to keep us up with social commitments and shopping and doing all the things. We listened to Christmas music non-stop until just the other day. Santa came while we were sleeping and the kids got to see their new things then we went to my side of the family for the day. On the 26th we headed to Maine and had a few days with the family there. It was all really special and fun. Getting home, I was ready for some more careful food portions, fewer treats, and more workouts & movement.

I don’t have a post-holiday down feelings. I love to move onto winter decor and wrap up a fun Christmas. I’m in the process of un-decorating from Christmas and finding a home for everything. Mr. J and I are gearing up for our traditional sliders, shakes, and champagne for NYE!

This season neeeeds a Winter Veggie Grain Bowl – customized as you wish! Mine had farro, butternut squash, zucchini, mushrooms, cheddar, dried cranberries, and a drizzle of honey mustard. It is hearty but not heavy. Trust me, this is a perfect fit to your January.
The Three Bite Rule - Winter Veggie Grain Bowl
Santa (and the office cookie swap!) got Hot Chocolate Cookies!
The Three Bite Rule - Hot Chocolate Cookies
I finally posted about the finals for the burger competition.

January will have some fun foods. I have a series coming up and I’m prepped ahead which feels good. I over-indulged a bit over the holidays and didn’t sleep as well as usual. I’m glad have some slower days and be back to my routine before heading back to work.

The Preschooler Guy:

The holiday season is magical at age 4! Visiting Santa was so fun and he was excited and brave! He got a Captain America costume, mask, and shield from Santa. He barely took it off since he got it. His other favorite items were dinos, his sister’s musical instruments, and headphones. Food-wise, he’s still into pasta but rice is out of fashion.

The Toddler Girl:

The little girl was a bit nervous to meet Santa but she held it together! She got a baby stroller for her doll. She loves it! Her other favorite items were a penguin winter hat, music instruments, and doll bottles. Food-wise, she loves dipping and eats almost everything we give her.

This year’s Goals:

Year of beauty! I got reusable make up remover pads!
Prep intentional sides and veggies: I’ll keep at it.
Eat more fish: The kids are loving salmon with everything bagel seasoning.
Blog some series: Dec didn’t feel like the time to launch one. Hang on for Jan!
Focus decluttering/organizing to an area: Baby toys are on their ways to new homes!
Share more books on instagram: We hit the library a few times but I didn’t share much.
Prioritize workouts: I’m 65/100 through 100 morning meltdown.
What I’m reading: I loved Meet Me in Monoco for a lighter and sweet but interesting story. 
What I’m listening to:
Bachelor Party podcast has been counting down the most dramatic seasons. It is so funny to think back to some such a long time ago.
What I’m watching: all the Christmas movies!

Hot Chocolate Cookies

I baked! It happens so rarely that I feel like it requires skywriting with “I did a thing”! In full disclosure, I did not make this recipe up but I’m not 100% sure of the origins. Ms. L gets all the credit as these are a staple in her arsenal of skills. I tweaked ever-so-slightly. They were great!
The Three Bite Rule - Hot Chocolate Cookies

Hot Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients: (makes 4 dozen)

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 sticks room temperature butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/4 cups flour
4 packages Hot Chocolate Mix (not sugar free)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Cream together sugars and butter until fluffy. Add eggs & vanilla.
In another bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Slowly add dry ingredients to the butter mixture.
Add chocolate chips.
Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake for ~7 minutes.
Lightly press a few marshmallows in the top of each ball. Bake for another 4 minutes. Let cool for 1 minute on the tray, then on a cooling rack.
Enjoy!

The Three Bite Rule - Hot Chocolate Cookies
These were so good! I loved them and will definitely make them again. It seemed too mentally taxing for me to have 2 timers going for 2 rounds each so I just cooked 1 tray at a time. Had it been daytime, maybe I could have handled more than that.

They were perfectly cooked, and super cute amongst their cookie friends at a swap. I made 3 dozen for the swap and froze the rest to bake for Santa!

Build a Better Burger Final Competition

Wayyy back when, in mid-October, I had the final round of the Build a Better Burger Competition. Spoiler: I didn’t win, but it was really fun.
The Three Bite Rule - Build a Better Burger Finals
We flew home on a red-eye so I could be at a 9am meeting at work for a big event. Phew. It was such a whirlwind trip but I’m so grateful Mr. J and I got a getaway! I last went to wine country circa 2007 maybe? Mr. J hadn’t been and is now more into wine! Yay!

After wining the regional one in Boston, they didn’t immediately share a date for the finals (which I thought they mustttt have since it ended up being just 6 weeks later). I was really hoping it wouldn’t conflict with a big work event weekend. I ended up getting the flights & hotel stay, early and we left early, to get me back in time. The regional one was structured differently than the finals so I was always trying to nail-down details. Thankfully stars aligned for grandparents to babysit, availability at the kennel and time off work to get us to Napa!

Tuesday: Mr. J and I arrived in SF and drive out to our super cute hotel in St. Helena: Wydown Hotel. St. Helena is adorable! We popped over to Sterling Vineyard for a self-guided tastings and an aerial tram. It was fun but not the best intro to vineyards. It was a good chance to taste a few wines and to walk around at our own pace and see their vineyards from a gondola- after a day of flying and then a 2 hour car drive. We had dinner in Napa to stay up and adjust ourselves to the time difference.

Wednesday: We got up (early for wine country standards) and went out to see the redwoods about an hour away. It was awe-astounding and great to hike around for a few hours. Back in wine country and we grabbed lunch at Gotts Roadside and then we did a tasting at V. Sattui Winery. It was fantastic to have choices in what we wanted to try! I had a meeting with the other contestants to proof our ingredients and before a welcome dinner for the contestants and guests at the winery. The food was to-die for and it was so wonderful to really get to know the others in the competition.

Thursday: Competition day! I was all nerves. I took a walk and tried to just be ready. The 5 contestants had staggered start times alphabetically by last name. I was 4th! I had to present each of the six judges with half a burger in 60 minutes. Mr. J really tried to keep me calm. I was so nervous!

The Three Bite Rule - Build a Better Burger Finals
There was so much time- kind of too much time since the fried egg really had to be last. This round, they had to be sliced which was my biggest stressor. I was physically shaking for the last 10 minutes. Presenting to the judges was much easier than the final few minutes of cook time! The judges seemed to have really positive reactions for me. Their suggestions included toasting my burger buns and another suggested using a really Parisian stinky cheese. I’ll definitely take the note to toast the bun- I’m not into stinky cheese so I’ll stick with the swiss- or boursin would be good too!

The Three Bite Rule - Build a Better Burger Finals
We cooked for the judges, and the culinary staff made our burgers for the attendees. Here was mine! Mr. J got to taste all the burgers.
The Three Bite Rule - Build a Better Burger Finals
The woman who won was ecstatic. She was lovely and I’m sure she was genuinely thrilled. Originally we thought we’d hear 3rd place, 2nd place, and the winner but they just announced the winner. It was tough because with so few, we each felt like we could have won. I know it is subjective and what chefs/culinary professionals choose might not be what the average person wants. I was disappointed not to win and exhausted. I guess we can each assume we were each almost the winner. The Three Bite Rule - Build a Better Burger Finals

Then we headed to the airport and flew home on our first red-eye! Phew!

I did love doing it (though I’m tough on events that aren’t seamless – I’m lookin’ at you regional round! I wanted dates! I wanted details!) but I wouldn’t enter the contest circuit all the time. The stress and anxiety is real! The prize absolutely made it worth it and Mr. J and I would absolutely not have had a trip away without the competition. I literally entered hoping to maybe get some free wine out of the deal so I’d say I came out on top! I feel proud of what I did- each round I definitely made the best version of my burger I could and pushing myself to do something new.

Enter! Put yourself out there! You never know when you’ll get a trip to wine country when you were hoping for a just some free wine!

Winter Veggie Grain Bowl

You know I loooove a grain bowl and this one was perfect for the season. It is totally vegetarian, nearly vegan, filling, fitting for the season and quick! Who doesn’t need more veggies and whole grains this time of year? The tart dried cranberries and the sweet honey mustard drizzle are ideal here. Making the farro in advance and par-roasting the veggies gives a great head start.

The Three Bite Rule - Winter Veggie Grain Bowl

Winter Veggie Grain Bowl

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 cup dried farro
3 cups water or broth
1/2 butternut squash, pealed
1 zucchini
~2 cups mushrooms
~2 oz of sharp white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup honey mustard or balsamic reduction or spicy honey

Directions:

Add the farro and water/broth to a low boil. Cook for ~30 minutes until tender (or make in advance).
Preheat the oven to 375-degrees.
While the farro is cooking, peal and chop the butternut squash. Spread it out onto a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and bake.
Chop the zucchini and add to the sheet pan.
Bake for ~15 minutes, adding the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt & pepper to cook for the last five minutes.
Slice the cheese and break into crumbles.
Plate farro onto the bottom of the bowls or plates, top with veggies, then add dried cranberries and cheese.
The Three Bite Rule - Winter Veggie Grain Bowl
Drizzle with honey mustard. Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Winter Veggie Grain Bowl
I really loved this one. The preschooler and toddler each loved it. The chewy farro has such texture with the roasted veggies. Swap the veggies for your fav and the drizzle of your choice. To me, the must haves here are the farro + dried cranberries + cheese. If meat is a must have, sausage or shredded roasted chicken would be good.

November 2019 Recap

November was a blur. It didn’t feel the biggest month in the kitchen. Being away one weekend, a cold, and a babe with hand/foot/month made the month fuzzy. My college roomies and I had a weekend to CT to some wineries. It was magical. The best. These ladies bring me such joy and make me a better person. It was so wonderful.

I love love loved this butternut squash soup with apple cider and brown butter. It might be repeated for Thanksgiving. I also re-made a Greek Lemon & Orzo Soup that uses chicken, tons of lemon, and tons of oregano. It freezes well and was my lunch for a few days at work.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash & Cider Soup
This little blog turned 9! Wow!

I made some gingerbread syrup to put in coffee and I can see it being great in hot chocolate or tea.
The Three Bite Rule - Gingerbread Syrup
I want to document the burger finals but just haven’t collected the photos. I didn’t take many myself but it was such a big deal for my fall that I would like to be able to look back on it. I’ll get on it, courtesy of my personal photographer/webmaster/cheerleader. I’m not sure what’s ahead in December. It seems like a busy time of year so maybe I’ll sneak in some quick/make-ahead/healthy options.

The Preschooler Guy:

He’s doing go well at school! I’m glad to hear he’s making friends and is behaving. He loves it. I love seeing his mind churn and make connections. I’m proud of him being brave to answer strangers and to jump into activities when his natural inclination is to hang back at first. He’s suddenly into flavored instant oatmeal, which is awesome to expand some bfast options. On the other hand, he’s not wanting sandwiches again, which totally inhibits lunch options. His Halloween candy will last him forever.

The Toddler Girl:

She’s obsessed with a baby doll she got last year for Christmas. She’s now pacifier-free! She did it! She was such a champ through hand, foot, and mouth. This girl is so easy-going but feisty. I can see her snag her brother’s stuff, watch him to see if he notices, and put up a fight when he tries to get it back. She totally knows what’s up. She is good with routines- when we get home she puts her own shoes away and follows brother to wash her hands. It is adorable! She loves all food and can totally put it away. We’re so impressed with her ability to use a fork.

This year’s Goals:

Year of beauty! The face masks have been fun!
Prep intentional sides and veggies: I’ve prepped a few more to have ready to go. The baby loved some sautéed mushrooms.
Eat more fish: I don’t know that we had any in Nov
Blog some series: Hmm. I’m thinking about what’ll be December.
Focus decluttering/organizing to an area: Toys and such got a bit more put-away while having to decontaminate everything amidst hand, food & mouth.
Share more books on instagram: I added a few to stories for me and a few picture books.
Prioritize workouts: I’m 40/100 through 100 morning meltdown.
What I’m reading: I breezed through When We Were Strangers
What I’m listening to:
Be There in Five‘s episodes about purity culture called “Love Weights”. They’re long but ohh-so worth it.
What I’m watching: We got really into a docu-series by CNN, Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies

Enjoy Thanksgiving!! I’m thankful for so many things- including you who read this!

Gingerbread Syrup for Hot Drinks

Gingerbread lattes! Gingerbread americanos! Gingerbread hot chocolates! The possibilities are endless! I 100% wait until after Thanksgiving for Christmas things but these flavors felt fall enough to fit this week of Thanksgiving.

The Three Bite Rule - Gingerbread Syrup

Gingerbread Syrup

Ingredients:

(makes ~2 cups, or 12 servings. Half unless gifting!)
1 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs honey
2 tbs molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated or minced ginger
1 strip orange peal

Directions:

Heat everything together and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Pour through a mesh strainer, or through a cheese cloth, or through a coffee filter.
The Three Bite Rule - Gingerbread Syrup
Stir into coffee and top with frothed milk. (Microwave milk in a glass jar for 15 seconds. Screw on the top and shake vigorously.)
The Three Bite Rule - Gingerbread Syrup
Top with whipped cream and an extra sprinkle of nutmeg!
The Three Bite Rule - Gingerbread Syrup
I keep fresh ginger in the freezer and use a veggie pealer to shave the skin off and then chop or grate. It lasts forever and is a great addition to peanut sauce or smoothies too.

I loved this! It was such a fun treat to have on hand! It is delightful in coffee or in hot chocolate. The flavor is strong so a tablespoon felt like plenty in a cup. This makes more than enough so I’ll half it next time.
The Three Bite Rule - Gingerbread Syrup

9th Blogaversary

9 years old?!?! How’s that possible!
balloons
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!

Superlatives

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.
The Three Bite Rule - Insta
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.
The Three Bite Rule - Fall Hot Dog
Most Repeatable: Crispy Fish Rice Bowl
The Three Bite Rule - 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 & Cider Soup

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
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash & Cider Soup

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

Directions:

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.)
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash & Cider Soup
Cook until totally cooked through. (I cooked it in the pressure cooker with a little water for 4 minutes.)
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash & Cider Soup
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.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash & Cider Soup
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!
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash & Cider Soup

October 2019 Recap

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.
The Three Bite Rule - Waffle-ized Hashbrowns topped with an Egg
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!
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken & Apple Sandwiches
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!

2019 goals:

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.

Waffle-ized Hash Browns with Everything Bagel Egg

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.
The Three Bite Rule - Waffle-ized Hashbrowns topped with an Egg
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
2 eggs
1 cup cheese sauce
salt & pepper
3 teaspoons everything bagel seasoning
eggs (1-2 per serving)
bacon

Directions:

Mix together the hash browns, shredded cheese, cheese sauce, eggs, salt & pepper.
The Three Bite Rule - Waffle-ized Hashbrowns topped with an Egg
Preheat the waffle iron (or a skillet with oil) and preheat the oven to keep the “waffles” warm.
The Three Bite Rule - Waffle-ized Hashbrowns topped with an Egg
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).
The Three Bite Rule - Waffle-ized Hashbrowns topped with an Egg
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.
The Three Bite Rule - Waffle-ized Hashbrowns topped with an Egg
Enjoy!

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!
The Three Bite Rule - Waffle-ized Hashbrowns topped with an Egg