Will I ever run out of grain bowls? Actually – don’t answer that. I seriously loooove the combo of a grain + something cooked/warm + something cool/raw finished with a drizzle. They are also a fantastic way to hit lots of food groups while using up small quantities of things!
The littles aren’t enchanted by shrimp lately so I skipped them on this one and made it just for myself. It was a good thing because this was spi-cy. This would be great with any fish or chicken or beef.
Chipotle Shrimp Rice Bowls
Ingredients: (for 2)
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1/4 cup sour cream
1 chipotle pepper in adobo (plus 2 teaspoons of sauce)
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lime juice
8 jumbo shrimp, pealed and deveined
1/4 cup tomatoes
1/2 cup black beans
Cook the rice.
In a food processor or blender, mix together the sour cream, chipotle pepper plus 1 teaspoons of sauce, honey, and lime juice.
In a medium skillet, over medium heat, add in butter and remaining teaspoon of adobo sauce.
Slice tomatoes and avocado.
Layer into two bowls and drizzle with chipotle lime sauce.
The sauce is spi-cy. Next time I’d tone it down a bit (by halving the chipotle) but I liked it. The rice and the avocado and the beans all help the spice. It was great for something different. In a pinch I’m known to mix ranch with salsa for a creamy drizzle too.
Cheers! If now isn’t the time for a fun drink, I don’t know when is! I whipped up this as an afternoon frozen treat but it definitely lends itself to being a frozen cocktail too! I never make drinks anymore but need to get back to it. This one has pink grapefruit juice with lemonade to mellow out the tartness. The grenadine adds some sweetness plus it brightens up the color!
My blender can totally pulverize ice but this drink could be on ice too- especially if it would be too icy and chunky, I’d shake it and serve over ice.
Pink Grapefruit Refresher
2 cups ice
3/4 cup lemonade
2/3 cup pink grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon grenadine
Add everything into the blender.
I loved this. The pink grapefruit is distinct and I knew it needed more sweetness. I used 100% ruby red grapefruit juice and a single serve lemonade. My tests were just frozen slushies which was truly a highlight of the afternoon. Each of the kids were stealing sips while they played outside.
For an evening version, I’d add some citrus vodka.
I’d say we are somewhere between doing-well and surviving. Mostly we’d point towards well, though, honestly there are moments each day that we’re ready to tap-out. I think our rhythms are serving us well and we have enough ideas to keep us all on our toes. On weekdays, I create themes to give us some focus or for the days to feel different. Some good ones this month were: Thomas’ fav things day; cat day; and color days. We’ve been keeping our Friday night take out & DVR tradition after the kiddos go to bed and we often get take out another night. I love breaking up the week to have things to look forward to- and to supporting our local favs.
Cooking wise, we’ve been grilling a lot and I blogged with a focus on sauces since nobody is shopping extra and I’m never sure how accessible everything is.
Sauce 1: Maple Dijon for greens
Crispy Chicken Panini with Maple Dijon Greens
Sauce 2: Bacon Aoli
Bacon Aoli Burger
Sauce 3: Honey Garlic Sauce
Honey Garlic Sauce on Pizza
I loved all of these! This reminded me to add garlic to the grocery list to make some more! I hope a sauce can mix up your next panini, burger, roasted veggies or pizza!
The Pre-K Guy:
He loves the routines more than anyone else here. He loves the sandbox Mr. J made them. He’ll gladly play with tools and scraps while Mr. J builds all the things. The daily themes are of interest, but he’s resistant to some of the worksheets/projects. Once he gets going, he can totally do them all. He’s super into eating a whole raw carrot. Avocado toast with everything bagel seasoning was a hit for lunch a few times. Somehow we got into a routine of having us guess, with our eyes closed, what book it’ll be.
The Toddler Girl:
She’s pretty happy with the current situation. She loooves stroller rides and the Cozy Coupe car- those are her auto-responses when we chat about our favorite parts of the day at dinner. She eats SO much at lunch and breakfast and dinner are so-so. Oatmeal and yogurt are her fav breakfasts. She loves pb&j and turkey & cheese sandwiches. Little girl can put away a whole sandwich plus whatever else! I love seeing her drink out of (and say) water bottle.
This Year’s Goals:
Year of beauty/selfcare – I didn’t grab anything. Do my resistance bands for workouts count?
Prep intentional sides and veggies: Ehh. Nope
Eat more fish: Salmon- again!
Blog some series: Nope.
Focus decluttering/organizing to an area: A pantry shelf got a complete clean-out when we found some ants. Eeek! I also did a major org of kids clothes and passed along a bunch of too-small ones.
Share more books on instagram: I’ve shared the collections I pull for the kids and what I’m into.
Prioritize workouts: I got into a Barre Blend one that has been good, and a serious reminder that I’m not my teenage self in ballet class. We are taking a lot of walks and I’ve gone running about once a week or so.
What I’m reading: I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo which might be my fav of the year. I tried The Followers but couldn’t get too far into it. I’m partway into The Most Fun We Ever Had.
What I’m listening to: only the occasional podcast – Be There in 5 did a series on influencers that was so captivating.
What I’m watching: Supermarket Stakeout has been fun.
Back when we could go places, Mr. J and I had a date night to our now-fav local winery, Debevino for a wine tasting and then got dinner at Tavolino. We had a pizza we fell in love with. It had crispy chicken, bacon, smokes gouda, mozzarella and a roasted garlic-honey drizzle. I loooved it and actually asked if they sold the sauce- they don’t.
My pizza was a bit different than the restaurant version, but this sauce- ohh this sauce -is to die for. I plan to whip up some more sauce asap. We would love this sauce spread on a panini, as a bread dip, on a burger, or drizzled on pasta or over roasted veggies. For 2 seconds I felt bad that the sauce will take you 45 minutes. But seriously, when else will you have this much time?? Also, B, you’re just popping the garlic into the oven and setting a timer. I roasted it in the toaster oven for 40 minutes and mixed up the sauce. Then it chilled in the fridge until dinner time!
Honey Garlic Sauce Sauce on Pizza
1 bulb of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper
3/4 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded, roasted chicken
2 cups arugula
drizzle of olive oil, vinegar, or Italian dressing
Slice 1/4 inch off the top off the garlic bulb, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast at 400-degrees for 40 minutes. (It should be super soft, add another 10 minutes if needed). This can be done in advance too.
Poke or scoop each garlic clove out into a small food processor or a bowl to beat with a hand mixer. Add in remaining olive oil, honey, butter, garlic powder, and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.
Blend until smooth. Chill until using.
Preheat a pizza stone, the oven, or grill – however you’re cooking your pizza.
Spread the sauce onto the crust then top with cheese and chicken.
Bake until the crust crisps and the cheese melts.
Top with arugula dressed in olive oil and vinegar or Italian dressing.
We seriously swooned over this one. The chicken was from a rotisserie chicken that I had frozen. Pizzas are a great way to spread a small amount of the protein for topping! The sauce was flavorful, rich, and sweet. I love the raw crunch of the greens on a melty pizza. Some chopped parsley for some freshness and greens would be a great alternative.
This bacon aoli is as amazing as it sounds and makes the burger. I’m glad there’s some leftover aoli for another time! It is packed with so much bacon flavor, a little creaminess and lots of smokey flavor.
Mine was a beyond meat burger which is SO good. It was, hands down, the best burger I’ve had in a long time. I made the bacon aoli in advance which totally sped up getting the burgers on the table. A toddler waits for no blog photos.
Ingredients: (for 1/4 cup, about 4 servings)
2 strips of bacon, reserve the bacon drippings
1/4 cup mayo
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
salt & pepper
Pan fry chopped bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan and reserve the drippings.
Add the mayo, garlic, liquid smoke, bacon, bacon drippings when cooled, and salt and pepper to a small bowl.
Spread onto burgers topping them with more bacon, cheddar, arugula, and tomato – like I did. Or spread onto a BLT with more bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. Or spread onto a roll with turkey, provolone, tomato, and arugula.
I loved this. We had these burgers with sweet potato tots and some white wine. It truly made a perfect mother’s day dinner for me!
Get your hands on some liquid smoke. It seems like a specialty ingredient, but it lasts forever and will transform your chili, it is great in any cheeseburger-ish item you’re not actually grilling (like cheeseburger layer dip) or Rootbeer bbq sauce or in any pork dish (like pork and bacon ragu). I use it all the time and just now need another bottle. I’ve seen it for sale in the grocery store too. In a pinch, Worcestershire sauce would be a back-up.
The title doesn’t leave a whole lot to your imagination, but I was going for easy to procure ingredients with lots of wiggle room to customize! This was also an fun way to use a smaller portion of chicken, or I’d totally make it again with meatless chicken, which I love too. I forget about paninis but now that we’re all home for quarantine, they’re a great and easy meal and can easily be a dinner. There are 4 food groups in here!
I hope some of these easy ideas give you something to look forward to. We all need that right now, right? Paninis are also so great to be build your own if you have a crowd too!
Crispy Chicken Panini with Maple Dijon Arugula
Ingredients: (for 1 panini)
2 breaded chicken tenders
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon mayo
1 slice provolone
1 small roll
Bake the chicken until crispy and fully cooked through. (Mine came frozen or use meatless tenders or make your own). Then slice in half width-wise.
Mix together the dijon, maple syrup, and mayo.
Heat a panini press or grill pan or heavy skillet.
Toss the arugula in some of the maple dijon. Reserve some to spread onto the roll.
Assemble the panini with a little maple dijon on the roll (if desired), arugula then chicken then cheese.
Press or grill or pop into a toaster oven (or skip and enjoy immediately!), as you wish, until warmed through and until the cheese melts.
Slice and enjoy!
Ohh so good, and simple. Making a little maple dijon gives it an easy special touch that I think is totally worth it- esp since I was using otherwise prepared ingredients, but substitute honey mustard dressing and call it a day.
I know not everyone can get every ingredient right now, so here are some substitution ideas:
roll – use bread, or make it a wrap!
provolone – any sliced cheese: swiss/cheddar/gouda/monterey jack
arugula – any greens: spinach/collards/swiss chard/kale
Whatever you do with it, add a panini or melt into your menu for a fun but quick lunch or a dinner.
Some moments I can’t believe how time is moving and other times we feel like we’ve been home for-ev-er. We’re hanging in there. We are very settled into a routine. Working and caring for the kids at the same time is no joke. I know I’m moving much more and getting more time outside. Mr. J has already tackled a lot of building and yard projects. I’m sad for our pre-schooler who won’t get to see his classmates and teacher again. Our toddler does not notice anything out of the ordinary. We’re lucky- safe, healthy, some job security, access to what we need. Mr. J and I think about what’s working and where the silver linings are.
Inspiration in the kitchen ebbs and wanes. Many of our dinners are centered around what we can access and what’s quick and easy after juggling work and kids. Breakfasts and lunches are pretty similar to our usual offerings.
I made a Chicken Bacon Cheddar, and Ranch Risotto. This is sooo good. I love risotto in the pressure cooker but any rice or grain with ranch seasoning and bacon. We had a few panko crusted chicken tenders from the freezer and a few chicken thighs so it was a mix and match scenario.
A meal I was probably most surprised by was a White Bean & Sausage Soup. Our instacart order substituted spicy sausage and I didn’t know how well that would go over with anyone else so I made it as soup for myself. I loved it and will have to repeat this asap.
For Easter breakfast I made a Fluffernutter Baked French Toast. It was perfect before hunting for eggs!
We got an outdoor pizza oven so we’ve had a few pizza nights so far. I think we’ve worked out the timing and we are ohh-so obsessed. I’m sure there will be some to post here for any way to make pizza. I’m not sure what else we’re in the mood for. We’re getting take out to support our fav local spots and to treat ourselves. I love the zoom get-togethers I’ve had with a few circles but tire of back to back zoom meetings.
The Preschooler Boy:
He misses school and it breaks my heart. He grew so much to be brave and meet new people so it is sad to end the year like this. He is happy to be home and actually loves not going anywhere, but he thinks about school a lot. In terms of school, we aim for him to color, cut, draw, or write each day. I’ve created themes for each would-be-school-day. Some are better than others. Good: Squirrel Day! & Plants/Garden Day! & Ocean Day! Lame-ish: ABC day wasn’t amazing. Zoo day was ehh. He leans towards perfectionism but when we power through in a craft or project he likes it. He’s riding his bike without training wheels and is doing great! We showed him Reading Rainbow and he loves it as much as I do! Food-wise, he’s loving huge raw carrots he can just hold and bite. Lunch is always a strong meal and dinner can go either way.
The Toddler Girl:
She’s just so happy and easy-going. She has so many words! I love seeing her play more. She can see what her big brother is doing and play that with him. She loves being outside and will now happily wear her bike helmet. She loves books and has lots of stuffed animals in her bed. We’re operating a one-in, one-out for stuffed critters. She loves playing at the play kitchen and slicing wooden veggies. I’m so thankful she loves ridding in the stroller so much. Food-wise, she looooves oatmeal, cheese, cooked veggies, and turkey sandwiches.
This Year’s Goals:
Year of beauty/selfcare Yes!! I got this pulsing face-scrubber which is so fun!
Prep intentional sides and veggies: Ehh. Not really
Eat more fish: Salmon!
Blog some series: Nah. All bets are off right now.
Focus decluttering/organizing to an area: Hmm. We’ve been a bit neater since we’re home 24-7. Does that count?
Share more books on instagram: Yes! I’ve been reading a lot and sharing them.
Prioritize workouts: I’m wrapping up a cardio one called T25. I’m kind of bored with it by the end now, but they are really great workouts and I like following the calendars/schedules for each online class. We are taking a lot of walks and I’ve gone running about once a week or so.
What I’m reading: I read City of Girls and loved it! The complex characters were just what I needed. A Spark of Light goes chronologically backwards but the intense topics are now what I think of from Jodi Picoult. I went through Ask Again, Yes but didn’t love it as much as the others this month.
What I’m listening to: only the occasional podcast – Bad on Paper & What’s Gaby Cooking
What I’m watching: We’re sad that Schitt’s Creek will be over so we’re only creeping to the finale. We got really into “Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies” on CNN.
There’s nothing better than melty peanut butter. I made this Fluffernutter Baked French Toast for Easter and thought it was so fun, especially since my fam love peanut butter and fluff flavors! Baked french toast is super handy since it gets all mixed and goes into the oven as one fell swoop! I used mini marshmallows, making this super easy and it would be a great one for kids to help with! I was making it early morning before little ones would check if the Easter bunny came! Plus, I was blogging so that’s definitely a solo project!
Peanut Butter & Marshmallow French Toast
Ingredients: (for ~5-6 servings)
1/2 loaf Italian bread
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup (more for serving)
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
Slice the bread into ~1 inch slices and 1 inch cubes. (I did this the night before- when it gets a bit stale it is better!)
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
Whisk together the eggs, cream, extract, cinnamon, and maple syrup.
Stir in the bread and mix to coat well, but with care to not breakdown the bread completely.
Spray a 9″x9″ or 9″ deep dish pie plate, or similar sized baking dish with non-stick spray.
Add in half the bread mixture with half the mini marshmallows and with half the peanut butter. From a big scoop of peanut butter, push off small dollops of pb with another spoon.
Then add in the rest of the bread mixture and the rest of the peanut butter and marshmallows.
Bake for 40 minutes covered, then another 10 minutes uncovered.
Serve with syrup and enjoy!
We loved it! The marshmallows were surprisingly not too sweet which surprised me. I also served it with bacon which helps for some salt flavor! It is good as leftovers too. Being home all the time has me thinking more baked french toasts should be in rotation. Last year I made a Nutella Croissant Baked French Toast which is also fantastic- if you were looking for more ways to consume nutella!
These flavors are great on their own, but better together. That’s like all of us, right? These weird times we’re all navigating need meals to connect over. I don’t pretend all meals are perfect though at our house, most of us loved this. T was mostly into the bacon and didn’t go for the chicken. C ate some of all of it, but LOVED the chicken.
Chicken was hard to come by on some of our digital grocery orders at one point. I had a few frozen chicken thighs and some panko breaded chicken tenders that were also formal residents of our freezer. However you like/whatever you can get! Risotto or any rice or whatever grain is kicking around your pantry. Any rice, or farro, or couscous, or quinoa, or lentils, or even beans would be good! Adding ranch flavor and cheddar and bacon will make the world seem better- or at least it’ll make dinner seem better!
Chicken, Bacon, Cheddar and Ranch Risotto
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 chicken broth (or liquid ratio according to the method)
2 teaspoons dried Ranch powder mix
1 cup shredded cheddar
4 strips of bacon
4 chicken thighs grilled or pan seared or ~6 chicken tenders breaded and fried or baked
4 tablespoons ranch dressing (optional)
Prepare the risotto according to the package (or method – I used the pressure cooker so I use the liquid ratio for that 1 cup arborio to 1 1/2 cups liquid) with the dried ranch mix.
While the risotto is cooking, chop the bacon and pan fry it until crisp, then remove from the grease but save a tablespoon or two.
Add in the tablespoon or two of bacon grease into the risotto when it is fully cooked, and mix in the cheddar cheese and bacon.
Bake or grill or sear the chicken.
Spoon some risotto into bowls or plates, slice chicken on top, and lastly add a drizzle of ranch dressing.
The first time I made this I roasted some grape tomatoes for this too. Stirring in some fresh spinach would be good for a complete bowl meal. I tossed some salad stuff together on the side. Or green beans would go nicely with this too!
I thought Easter meals could still be fun despite being a bit smaller. Here are a few of my favorites, that can also be easily halved if you have fewer guests this year!
You NEED this carrot shaped cheese ball plus it is easy to make half the recipe for a little one- for just a few people. So cute! Mix up the cheese in advance and assemble before serving. Because the exterior is just cheese, I’d totally keep it eating it another time if you have leftovers! This cheese ball is prob my fav, so form it into a carrot shape!
Deviled eggs are a fun nibble while little ones are hunting for plastic eggs! Also, make just a few! I think these Breakfast Deviled Eggs will be on our table for a savory bite and I’ll probably just make a few, as in, 3 eggs worth? Eyeball it- or add them to your dinner spread using any eggs you dyed! I love Caesar Deviled Eggs and Bacon & Ranch Deviled Eggs and Sour Cream & Onion Deviled Eggs.
Breakfast foods can be easy to make half of too! I definitely recommend a baked french toast – this one is Nutella Croissant Baked French Toast is amazing!
Flipping a ham dinner into sandwiches or into a pizza would be fun, if you’re not making a whole ham!
Enjoy Easter! Hope the bunny brings some treats!