Smokehouse Burgers

I found pretzel rolls at my regular grocery store and was super excited. Maybe more excited than I should have been! The last time I wanted pretzel rolls I had to pop into Whole Paycheck and they weren’t that great. I knew these would be perfect for a burger (and they were). I’m grinning and twiddling my fingers to scheme up the use for the 2 I stashed in the freezer for future use muah-ha-ha-ha.

Smokehouse Burgers

Pretzel rolls
burger
havarti cheese
caramelized onions
smokey aoli (mayo & liquid smoke)
stoneground mustard

The Three Bite Rule - Smokehouse Burgers
I love pretzel rolls. The grocery store had long ones too and I hope both sizes are here to stay. The liquid smoke is a staple in my chili and I figured a dribble would be good in a spread on this burger. It lasts forever and the mayo only needed a little to become something special. I didn’t season the burger meat, but a dusting of some bbq rub might have been tasty.

BLT Pasta

After making the BLT Panini, I had some really good bacon leftover so I wanted to make something else fun with it. I have no trouble finding uses for it but I thought about adding it into a pasta and then decided to let it have the spotlight. Sundried tomatoes and spinach rounded out the BLT-ness of this and the sauce was really minimal. The minimal is good in this scenario since the 1980s are probably trying to reach me and take the sundried tomatoes back.

BLT Pasta - The Three Bite Rule

Ingredients:

6 slices of thick cut bacon
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
3 cups baby spinach
1/2 pound pasta
2 tbs butter
1 tbs creamed cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta.
Pan fry the bacon until crisp in a large skillet, then remove and drain on paper towels. Remove from the heat and discard half the bacon grease (keeping half in the pan).
BLT Pasta - The Three Bite Rule
Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package.
Chop the sundried tomato and spinach to the size of your liking. I chopped the spinach just a bit and chopped the sundried tomatoes a lot.
BLT Pasta - The Three Bite Rule
Drain the pasta when cooked reserving a bit of the starchy water.
In the skillet with the bacon drippings, add in the butter and the cream cheese, melting over medium low heat. Add in the milk, pasta, sundried tomatoes, parmesan, spinach, salt & pepper.
BLT Pasta - The Three Bite Rule
Raise heat to medium and toss well to coat for 1-2 minutes. If it seems too dry, add in a splash of the cooking water.
BLT Pasta - The Three Bite Rule
Serve promptly & enjoy!

I liked the simplicity of this dinner. I didn’t want the spinach to disintegrate completely, just to warm a touch. I’m all about sundried tomatoes lately. Sometimes you just need to revisit something to remember what a fun tough it brings. Roasted cherry tomatoes would be good too.
BLT Pasta - The Three Bite Rule
In case you aren’t up on every. single. line. of Friends episodes…
Friends episode with sun dried tomatoes

Bacon, Cheddar, and Caramelized Onion Quiche

This might be my new favorite quiche. Bacon and cheddar is a happy union but the caramelized onions add some sweetness to the party. I need caramelized onions in my life more often. I bought onions and then discovered I already had a bunch. Oops. Time to make a batch of caramelized onions before mine start growing sprouts. I made a big batch and froze the rest for the next pizza that needs a topping, or omelette that needs something special, or the next panini. If you’re going to take the time/patience to caramelize one onion, you might as well caramelize a bunch.

Bacon Cheddar & Caramelized Onion Quiche - The Three Bite Rule

Ingredients:

pie crust
5 slices bacon
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 tbs dijon mustard
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
salt & pepper
1 onion, caramelized
6 oz cheddar

Directions:

Cut onions into thick rings then in half and half again the other way. Caramelize onions in a heavy skillet over low heat and 1 tbs of olive oil.
Bacon Cheddar & Caramelized Onion Quiche - The Three Bite Rule
Cook over low, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes until lightly browned.
Bacon Cheddar & Caramelized Onion Quiche - The Three Bite Rule
Pan fry the bacon until crisp.
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
Whisk together the eggs, yolks, milk, mustard, cream of tartar, salt & pepper.
The Three Bite Rule - Quiche Lorraine
In the crust, add in the cheese, bacon, and onions in layers.
Bacon Cheddar & Caramelized Onion Quiche - The Three Bite Rule
Pour the egg liquid mixture over the top.
Bacon Cheddar & Caramelized Onion Quiche - The Three Bite Rule
Bake 30 minutes until the center is set. Let cool before slicing. Enjoy!
Bacon Cheddar & Caramelized Onion Quiche - The Three Bite Rule

I love the smoky bacon with the sweet onions, with the sharp cheddar. Pure bliss. Quiche is perfect for breakfast or lunch and I loved having some on hand. I doubled the egg mixture (thanks to eggs from the ‘rents) and made my sis a broccoli cheddar quiche at the same time. A crust pack of 2 and plenty of cheese on hand helped remind me that making 2 quiches at once was the same amount of work as making one. Try it. Double the egg mix and use the veggies you have around and gift one away. It’ll feel as good as it tastes.

Chicken Taco Pizza

This pizza was almost something entirely different. One of my toppings spoiled before I got to it so that pizza will just have to hit on my to-make list until I get to it next. I tossed the slimed produce and then thought: what in this fridge can become pizza? The answer: everything! I had chicken and then I spotted our favorite bean dip that got me thinking Mexican pizza! I’ve made Taco Pizza on a Tortilla Crust and Taco Pizza Topped with Salad but this one is different because it sports this unbelievable bean thing. It’s not quite a dip, not quite a salad. We eat it as a side dish or dip tortilla chips into it. So good.

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Taco Pizza

Ingredients:

1 large chicken breast (or 2 small), cut into cubes
1-2 tbs taco seasoning
1/2 ball pizza dough
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup tomato sauce
6 oz shredded mozzarella/cheddar/jack cheese
1 cup 3 Bean Fiesta dip/salad
3 green onions, chopped
1 avocado or guacamole

Directions:

(make the 3 Bean Fiesta dip/salad in advance)
Cook the chicken in the taco seasoning until cooked through.
Preheat the oven and pizza stone if using one, to 400-degrees.
Roll the dough out to be a thin flat circle, or as close to that as you can get. Immediately place onto the pizza stone to cook slightly and to stop it from shrinking back to a ball. Poke a few holes into the dough.
Bake 15 minutes until lightly cooked and starting to brown. Then remove from the oven.
Top with tomato sauce & half of the salsa, cheese, chicken, and 3 bean fiesta. Then return it to the oven.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Taco Pizza
Bake 15-20 minutes until the cheese melts and the crust browns. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing. Top with green onion & remaining salsa.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Taco Pizza
Serve with avocado or guacamole & enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Taco Pizza
I liked this pizza. The tang of the 3 Bean Fiesta is really the wow factor. The sweet/acidic bite to it takes it from being just beans on a pizza to a whole different flavor. Plus, it has corn, green pepper, and onion to make it really taco-ish. I love it but 3 cans of corn, plus the other veggies, means you really need a few people eating it, or some solid plans for the leftovers. I use the leftovers on salad, on tacos/burritos/quesadillas, as a side dish, or still as dip. It is best a few hours after making it but everyone loves it and I can’t say enough good things about it.

Tuna Nicoise Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

I’m capitalizing on salads while I’m home on maternity leave. It is a good reminder how lucky I am to a) get a freshly cooked lunch at work, and b) that there’s always salad all ready with lunch. This salad took a bit more prep than just tossing some veggies with greens but I loved it and was so happy with my quick dressing! I’m counting this as my monthly eat-more-fish goal and my make-more-salad-dressings goal, though I will get my act together and eat more fish that isn’t just on salad.

Tuna Nicoise is the French cousin to our cobb salad. The cooking required is for the potatoes, egg, and green beans. You could include artichokes or seared tuna, or sardines if you’re feeling especially French. It looks so pretty before you dress it or before scooping bites of this and that. It is definitely a salad that feels like a meal.

The Three Bite Rule - Tuna Nicoise Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Dijon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp honey
salt & pepper

Directions:

In a jar, add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, honey, salt & pepper (I forgot the balsamic until after this pic)
The Three Bite Rule - Tuna Nicoise Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
Shake well for 1 minute.
The Three Bite Rule - Tuna Nicoise Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
Taste & adjust as needed. Add more honey if it is too bitter for you, or more vinegar if it needs more of a kick.
Enjoy!

Making salad dressing is so easy, which is why I wanted to make it more often. I have all these ingredients on hand AND I didn’t make a ton. That allows me to have different dressings all the time without making a gallon and feeling the need to use it all before going onto the next one. This dressing is light and easy to tweak to your tastes. By having it over this salad, it made me thing that salad dressing is a great use over steamed green beans or to mix into tuna.

Part of what I loved in this salad was the roasted potatoes. I nuked a potato, cut it into cubes then pan fried it in herbed butter until crisp. These potatoes were definitely a star of this salad. The butter was leftover from my salmon baked in herbed butter. I steamed the green beans while the potatoes were crisping then shocked them in ice water to keep them from going limp.
The Three Bite Rule - Tuna Nicoise Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
Each bite had me thinking that this is the best bite. Then I’d be all “mmm tuna and potato”, no that’s the best bite…”mmm egg and green bean”, no that’s the best bite. I love the fun stuff in salad, aka the heavy stuff that makes it pricey at a salad bar, and this one delivers on that. The greens below aren’t quite an afterthought, but they’re not what this is all about. I didn’t mess around much with the tuna – just half of a can (of chunk white tuna in water) with a tiny bit of Italian salad dressing to dress it really lightly.
The Three Bite Rule - Tuna Nicoise Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
I ate the exact same thing the following day for lunch, it was that good.

March 2015 Recap

That saying about March in like a lion and out like a lamb seemed somewhat true this year. I was so happy to have some warm days. Getting out with the little one was a serious game changer. I don’t really care how long it takes for the rest of the snow to melt now that the sidewalks are clear. I was happiest this month being able to strap Baby T into the baby bjorn and take to the streets. I ventured out daily with him strapped to me or in the stroller and it was huge after being confined until he had his shots at 2 months. It was so great to get moving and to get all inspired for some springy foods.

My favorite meal this month was taco salad with avocado lime dressing (though I made a killer chicken meatloaf that of course I didn’t blog thinking it wasn’t earth shattering or photogenic – that might have been the real winner this month).
The Three Bite Rule - Taco Salad with Avocado Lime Dressing
March has definitely been the month where I capitalized on lunch since I’m home during the day. I made this buffalo chicken pizza as a quickie-individual pizza. Seriously, try these pocket thins for a crisp but doughy single serve pizza.
The Three Bite Rule - Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Chicken & Wild Rice soup was another lunch-time fav this month. I baked the chicken when I had the oven on for dinner one night and used wild rice to season the soup. Poof. Soup wasn’t far away. I made it again a few weeks later for my fav new mommy.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
Panini-ify a BLT and you can thank me later
The Three Bite Rule - BLT Panini

The little one:
thomas_2month
likes – smiling! rides in the car & stroller, seeing pages turn in books, “playing” with cousin Nate, and going out in public now that he’s all vaccinated!
dislikes – shirts going over his head, and waiting too long for food, but that’s about it.

We’re doing so much better. He wasn’t eating enough and nursing was disastrous when he was just a few weeks old. Now I’m pumping and he’s eating via bottles with some formula to supplement, making for a happy (and full) baby which then makes for happy parents. Weeks 2-5 of his life were rough before we switched things up. I think it took that long to feel like it was OK to admit nursing wasn’t working out for any of us. Baby T would stop eating and be screaming, I’d feel terrible for him and like I was failing so then I’d be crying, Mr. J would be consoling & comforting both of us. Yikes. I’m glad to say we turned the corner.

He’s so fun. He smiles when he sees us and is fascinated when he finds his hands several times a day. Seeing the world through his eyes is just amazing. He’s eating well and sleeping through the night…ahh-mazing! The pups like him. He has a new cousin! Baby N is 3 weeks old now and just beautiful. They’re close in age and it is so exciting.

I can’t believe I’m headed back to work. Wish me luck!! I think I made the most of my time home with him and I love my job/colleagues/our mission so it’ll be ok to go back. I’m sure it’ll be tough to leave my little one, but Mr. J is taking the last of his time off so they’ll have 2 weeks together before starting daycare.

Progress on this year’s goals: 
The Year of the Earring: yes! This month’s earrings came by way of my birthday because who doesn’t need some good fortune?

make more salad dressings: YES! I did it! I made avocado lime dressing for taco salad

factor more time into how long every-day tasks/trips will take: 
Yup. I’m getting better at planning timing and prepping in advance before heading out.

recreate restaurant menu items:
Sure did! I made Cereal Crusted French Toast from Zoe’s in Cambridge.  Theirs is cereal & nuts and such but mine was the perfect use for not-so-great cereal.

be more adventurous with my reading selections:
I read The Interestings and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Neither was a far cry from previous choices but I liked these and am obsessed with getting books for my kindle from the library. Obsessed. 

use the crockpot more:
Nothing this month. Maybe next month when I’m back at work and needing more dinner help. 

seafood once a month:
ehh, nothing super interesting. I made salmon for a his/hers night. I nabbed a bit of his bernaise sauce. Yum. 

Ultimate BLT Panini

There are only so many variations on a BLT that I can share (like this Avocado BLT, or this BLT Burger, or this BLT Scallop Pizza, or this BLT Pasta Salad, or Bacon Jam BLT Pizza) but I panini-ified my BLT and splurged on good ingredients to make it a dinner. I went all out on thickcut, pepper-crusted bacon. Think expensive bacon. I mean, it was dinner, so the pricey stuff was worth it.

The Three Bite Rule - BLT Panini

Ingredients:

thick cut bacon, 3 slices per sandwich
oatmeal or sourdough bread
arugula
tomato
colby jack or sharp cheddar cheese
aoli/mayo (I used this!)/parmesan peppercorn dressing/honey mustard

Directions:

Bake the bacon slices in a 400-degree oven for 20-30 minutes on a cooling rack ontop of a baking sheet.
While the bacon is baking, spread the bread with mayo. Top the bread with the bacon. Load it up, this is a dinner sandwich.
The Three Bite Rule - BLT Panini
Layer the sandwiches with arugula, and tomato.
The Three Bite Rule - BLT Panini
Top with cheese and 2nd slice of bread. Preheat the panini press, a grill pan, or a griddle.
The Three Bite Rule - BLT Panini
Brush the bread/griddle/press with olive oil and grill the sandwiches until crisp and melted.
The Three Bite Rule - BLT Panini
I liked this one a lot. I think the arugula and the peppery bacon were great touches to elevate this to a more special sandwich.  The greens need to be one that can stand getting warmed, like arugula or spinach. Regular lettuces would just get wilty. I liked this sandwich grilled. Toasty bread is my favorite and those grill lines are the best but melting the cheese and warming everything through took it from a toasted sandwich to a panini.

Do you ever bake your bacon? It keeps it flat, you don’t have spatters of bacon grease, and you don’t have to flip & babysit it. I don’t always bake it, but it is such a great method. Anytime I’m going to chop the bacon I do that before cooking it and then I can push it around the pan and just scoop with a slotted spoon instead of trying to keep it from curling up and cooking unevenly.

Food & Meals to Bring a New Parent

When I was thinking of what nobody/no books told me about being a first time parent, I learned a lot about what foods I’d recommend. I never really knew what to bring new parents but now I have better ideas. On the first night home, my parents gave us a roast chicken, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole (a fav of mine!) and cookies. It was ahh-mazing to have a real meal and to have leftovers to eat the next day. Some of the other foods they gave were equally appreciated (specifically grapes, salad stuff, and eggs).

Suggested new parent meals/foods:

  • food for their freezer: things they can pull out to defrost or that can go right into the oven. Maybe you don’t know what they’ll have or when they’ll need a meal. Here are some freezer-friendly foods I like. Include reheating instructions & ingredients, just in case.
    The Three Bite Rule - Traditional Lasagna
  • snacks/sides: munchies they can turn into a lunch or for whenever the hunger strikes. My first trip out of the house was for this stuff. Healthy and fresh foods are greatly appreciated after freezer meals. Suggestions: hummus, veggies & pita chips; guacamole and chips; crackers & presliced cheese; salads, fruit, etc. Seasonal items would be fun too. Lemonade & popsicles in the summer or hot chocolate mix and some cookies for the winter, etc.
  • single serve foods: I made some of these and found them helpful when just one of us was hungry, or as lunch, etc. Individual burritos, sandwiches ready to become a panini, or individual muffin-tin servings of food work great.
    muff_tin_spinach_590_390
  • ready made foods are great too. You don’t even have to cook, just buy stuff that goes together to be a themed gift: a “pasta pack” of fun shaped noodles with a jar of pesto, frozen garlic bread; or “bfast bag” with yogurts, granola, orange juice, & some fruit; or a “lunch box” with chicken salad, pita pockets, apples, and chips; or “snack time” with pudding cups, fancy trail mix, goldfish, and a bottle of lemonade. You get the idea. Dress it up with a stick-on bow. Tell them what it is, and then put it away for them if anything needs to be refrigerated/frozen.
  • treats: it doesn’t have to be a meal. A crate of clementines or some cider donuts or whatever is seasonal would be great. Ice cream bars? Yes, please. Something the new parent doesn’t neeeed but would like is fun to have. Trader Joe’s has fun sodas or a neighborhood bakery might have great treats.
    The Three Bite Rule - Cranberry Soda Cocktail

My other suggestions:

  • don’t give them a dish you need back unless you’re family and will be there often. It is easy to give my mom’s dishes back because she can take them on her next visit. From anyone else it’d be annoying to wash, to remember, to store, to coordinate returning it. This is prime time for disposable cookware. Or you could buy them a cheap rubbermaid container & note on it that it is theirs to keep. I’ve heard some people buy Dollar Store plates to give food away on or stuff at yard sales that they don’t need to get back.
  • tell them “no thank you needed” whatever you bring them, tell them a thank you would be for them to cuddle their cute baby or to sleep an extra 5 minutes. You don’t want them scribbling a thank you card (since likely they thanked you for a shower gift & sent a birth announcement, and they’re exhausted). I wish those who I hadn’t ever even met but who were so generous to give a gift said this to me. Students in one of my mom’s classes were so sweet to give gifts, but I didn’t even know their last names. It was hard to come up with a thoughtful thank you note for those folks. I decided my bff wouldn’t mind a thank you text message the night we ate the meal she brought us, instead of mailing a card.
  • arrive the time they tell you and don’t stay more than an hour. The new parents are trying to get the swing of things and don’t need you hanging out all afternoon. Maybe the baby is super happy, well, that might mean they enjoy an hour with you sharing the new babe but the next hour might be naptime, or feeding time, or just the 20 minutes they need to themselves. Unless you are being put to work loading the dishwasher or you’re rocking the baby while they lug laundry upstairs, you should assume it is better to come several times for shorter visits. I have loved visits to have some interactions with people who can converse with me. I’ve capitalized on my parents visiting as time to shower/make lunch/anything that needs 2 hands.
  • tell them they look good/they’re doing a good job/the baby is adorable. Whether any combo of these are true or not, they need to hear these things. on repeat.

Cereal Crusted French Toast

For my restaurant recreation, I remembered a favorite from one of the best bfast joints around. Zoe’s in Cambridge makes a crunchy french toast coated with cereal and nuts. Everything on their menu is always good and their menu is incredible and extensive, though parking was always atrocious.

I had some not-amazing cereal that was perfect to crust French toast with! It was Protein Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crunch by Special K. It was OK cereal but since we weren’t eating it quickly it seemed like not our favorite. The flavor of cereal prompted my additional flavors for the cereal coating. Nuts would be a good addition or even blending up the not-enough-for-a-serving remains of multiple cereals.

The Three Bite Rule - Cereal Crusted French Toast
Ingredients:
4 slices of french bread
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/8 cup vanilla coffee creamer or heavy cream (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups cereal
1 tsp cinnamon
dash pumpkin pie spice
2 tbs brown sugar

Directions:
Whisk together the eggs, milk, creamer, and vanilla. Then soak the bread in it while you make the coating.
The Three Bite Rule - Cereal Crusted French Toast
In a food processor, blend together the cereal, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar.
The Three Bite Rule - Cereal Crusted French Toast
Heat a skillet or griddle to medium heat.
Toss the bread into the cereal coating on both sides.
The Three Bite Rule - Cereal Crusted French Toast
Melt butter onto the griddle and pan fry the french toast.
The Three Bite Rule - Cereal Crusted French Toast
Cook for about 4-6 minutes on each side, being careful not to let the sugar or cereal burn.
The Three Bite Rule - Cereal Crusted French Toast

Keep warm in the oven if cooking in batches. Serve with maple syrup & enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Cereal Crusted French Toast
I know, none of us really neeeeed ways to sweeten & add more calories to French Toast, but this makes it ohh so good. I love the crispy crunch on the outside with a soft inside. I think a crazy sugary cereal like peanut butter captain crunch or frosted flakes, or cinnamon toast crunch would be ahhh-mazing too. Though, I try to keep my cereal choices somewhat on the nutritious side.

Mr. J likes some of those kiddie-intended cereals (which allows me to sneak a bowl here and there) and they’re not the worst thing you could choose. I’ve heard some kids get to pick any sugary cereal for their birthday. Mr. J got those sugar-loaded ones for a special first-day-of-school treat. I love those ideas. One family I babysat got those as dessert since they’re vitamin fortified and a serving of milk.

What about you? Are you raisin bran or lucky charms?

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Something I really missed while pregnant was blue cheese dressing. It wasn’t even a banned food I have all the time but I was definitely ready for it. (This one from the refrigerated produce area is my fav). I used some for this super quick buffalo chicken pizza as lunch one day. Blue Cheese dressing became part of the sauce and some drizzled on top. Pita bread as the dough is, hands down, the easiest way to whip up a pizza. Plus, it works perfectly when making pizza for one. Since there’d be zero nutritional value, I was glad this was a single serving.

The Three Bite Rule - Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Ingredients:

1-2 breaded chicken fingers
1 Wheat pita bread pocket
1/4 cup blue cheese dressing
4 tbs hot sauce/buffalo sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions:

Bake the chicken according to the package.
Mix together most of the hot sauce and most of the blue cheese dressing for the sauce. Taste it and add dressing or hot sauce to taste for your preferred spice level.
The Three Bite Rule - Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Cut the chicken into chunks and toss with some hot sauce.
Spread the buffalo blue sauce onto the pita.
The Three Bite Rule - Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Then top with cheese, then with chicken. Drizzle any extra sauce over the top.
The Three Bite Rule - Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees until the cheese melts and the pita crisps a bit. I used the toaster oven.
The Three Bite Rule - Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Drizzle some blue cheese dressing over the top and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Buffalo Chicken Pizza
My chicken chunks are somewhat massive for the size of my pizza but I didn’t care. I was loving the buffalo and blue cheese together, plus each getting to shine on their own too. The chicken is crispy and the pizza hit the spot. You could always add celery, if you’re into that…I’m not a celery fan. I used wheat pitas because why not pretend there’s one healthy thing happening here?

Mr. J doesn’t like spice but these little pita pizzas are perfect to customize easily. They also freeze well if you wanted to make & freeze them, or prep them with just sauce and cheese to add toppings before eating sometime. I love good pizza crust but not messing with dough is pretty sweet as well.