July 2021 Recap

Summer is buzzing by. It feels like quite a mix of rainy days and super hot days. Work-life was turned upside down with the break up of my department, colleagues leaving, and now I’m trying to figure out what’s ahead.

July in the kitchen included some extra take-outs nights and extra “anything goes” nights after pool afternoons or when it was just too hot.

I made a great BBQ Chicken Rice Bowl with grilled zucchini, tomato salad, and a honey bbq drizzle.

The Three Bite Rule - BBQ Chicken Rice Bowl

Chicken Piccata became a pizza! It was so good, quite flavorful, and we will definitely repeat – majorly lemon flavor with juicy chicken and fresh parsley. I skipped the capers but go for it if you love them!

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Piccata Pizza

Lastly, I put together a bunch of dinner ideas for vacation: think minimal ingredients, not lots of leftovers, and easy to execute in a vacation rental kitchen! There are adaptations for each as well as ideas for sides. If you’re prepping for vacay, divvying meals for a family trip or planning a friends trip, these should help add some variety to your menu!
Crispy Fish (or shredded chicken) tacos with lemonade slaw
Pineapple Coconut Rice Bowls with Kielbasa/Chicken/Pulled Pork or as kebabs
– easy Mediterranean night with naan flatbreads & Greek salad or Greek Pasta Salad
– top your own pasta bar
– Sesame noodles & dumplings & edemame

August brings our beach vacation, Claire back to daycare a few days a week, and Claire turns 3! To make the most of the summer it feels like we need more beach time, more ice cream cones, and maybe some more days off. I have a breakfast blog post coming and some ideas for summer produce.

The Little Girl:
She loooves cruising around the neighborhood on her balance bike. She is more into the big pool now. For awhile she mostly splashed on the stairs and got in and out. Now she likes to “swim” to the swimout seat and then across to climb the ladder. It is so fun to see her with books she’s memorized. She started watching TV a bit more and is into Daniel Tiger. She always says when she’s big she’ll go to camp. She goes back to daycare in a few weeks!

The Big Guy:
He has been SO brave going to his day camps and each week being “new”. We hadn’t ever done camps before so we pieces together a few once we were ready to plan – I think we have favorites. They are so so so good for him to go do stuff away from home. I’m proud since new things feels hard for him but he’s been the picture of adaptability! Packing nut-free lunches is a re-learning curve for us- snacky lunch is the most successful. Swim lessons have been wonderful and he’s such a fish. I’ll never get over what he comes up with to make out of legos.

Year of the fun mail! Sadly another coworker is leaving so I sent a card.
More breakfasts: One needed more work so it is bumped to August.
Lunches coordinated or prepped in advance: a lot of breakfasts for lunch or all the random leftovers (like Soft Cornbread).
I’d like to get the house a bit neater: ehh.
Bullet journal – still keeping a meals list.
What I’m reading: I read Circe for bookclub though it was mostly in June – it was the most scholastic book I’ve read in a while. Beach Read was quite cute and a nice brain-vacay. Of Women and Salt was just ok, but I don’t overwhelmingly recommend. We Run the Tides was one of the most accurate depictions I’ve seen of a teenage mind’s rebellion/naivety/independence/questions. I heard an interview with Elin Hildebrand and she said Blue Bistro was her fav of her books – I could see why! High-end Restaurant life is a world of its own and Nantucket is so idyllic. Carnegie’s Maid is captivating for historical fiction about the Carnegie family and early philanthropy from a fictitious perspective of a fictitious immigrant lady’s maid- so well written.
What I’m Watching: All Olympics, all the time.

Chicken Piccata Pizza

We love anything on a pizza so some leftover chicken breasts had me thinking of chicken piccata and what better way than on a pizza! It was a low-pressure way to cook it and to see who will like it and the chicken and lemon sauce and parsley flavors seemed summery to be on a pizza!

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Piccata Pizza

It would also be wonderful as a sandwich – or into a panini. Go for it!

Chicken Piccata Pizza
Ingredients: (serves 4 for 1 large pizza or 3 small pizzas)

1 ball of pizza dough (or on 3 pieces of naan)
1 chicken breast, cut into 2-3 pieces
4 tablespoons flour + 1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons butter + 3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Allow pizza dough to come to room temp – over a few hours.
Preheat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of the butter & olive oil for pan frying over medium heat.
Pound the chicken out flat and stir together the flour, garlic powder, and salt & pepper.
Dredge the chicken pieces one at a time into the flour shaking off the excess then pan frying for ~3-4 minutes per side, flipping once. Check the internal temp with a meat thermometer – it should reach 165 degrees.

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Piccata Pizza

Remove the chicken (without draining the pan) and set the chicken aside.
To the hot pan, add in the broth and lemon juice. Cook at a low boil for 5 minutes to reduce.
Add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter + 1 tablespoon flour whisking continually over low heat for ~3 minutes then remove from the heat and let cool for 5+ minutes.
Chop the chicken.
Roll out the dough.
Assemble the pizza by spreading sauce onto the pizza dough (I used ~1/2 of the sauce). Then add the shredded cheese and then the chicken.
Bake (our pizza oven outside cooks pizza in ~90-seconds per pie, in the oven it might take ~20 minutes if the dough is par-baked, or 30 minutes from raw dough on a hot pizza stone).
Top with parsley & enjoy!

The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Piccata Pizza

We liked it! It was very, very lemony but bright and as pizza, it felt summery not being a heavy meal. The sauce was strong and while it wouldn’t be authentic (but I won’t tell anyone) if it was too much for you, you could also stir in a touch of cream or cream cheese or alfredo sauce (do that off the direct heat so the sauce doesn’t break).

The chicken was super juicy. That’s what a meat thermometer will do – no guessing to know if it is done! I know the 90-seconds in the pizza oven isn’t going to keep cooking, though 30 minutes in a high temp oven will!

We have enough sauce for another time. Or it would be good has a hot melty sub.

Vacation Menu Ideas

So….you’re going on vacation! Let’s chat menu ideas! Maybe you’ve got a group of friends or a few families or in a rental with minimal tools, and lots of mouths to feed, and everyone is hungry! I’ll guess you’ve got take out and some fun dinners out and some basic grilling nights covered.

Aim for some balance, anything customizable is good for a crowd, and don’t go crazy serving too many things. These meals don’t have to feel like Thanksgiving! Hit the grocery store salad bar/hot bar if you just need a little of an ingredient and don’t want leftovers – or for great side options without the stress! Here’s some starting points when it is your turn:

Crispy Fish Tacos with Lemonade Slaw

The Three Bite Rule - Lemonade Slaw

Sides: Grab a can of seasoned black beans, chips & guac to go with the tacos and you’re set! A few cheese quesadillas and avocados might help fill any gaps or please more palates. Street corn is one of my favs.
Alternatives: Offer shredded rotisserie chicken as a filling option then everything else could stay the same.
Hack: throw a lemonade drink mix packet into your bag and add to deli cole slaw- Poof, quick lemonade slaw! The fish is from the freezer section.

I loooove fish tacos and this are so so easy, have minimal clean up, and not lots of fish smell for anyone not eating it. Even our not-into-fish eater likes them and the kids do too. I “glue” the fish into the kids’ tacos with some shredded cheese and they most often eat the slaw on the side.


Sesame Noodles & Edamame

Sides: serve with some edamame (freezer section of the grocery store) or some Trader Joe’s Potstickers could go alongside too. Broccoli is good on the side (just roast in the oven with olive oil) or steam some green beans.
Alternatives: enjoy warm warm, room temp or cold. Teriyaki chicken/beef/shrimp on the grill would be good if the crowd wants a protein.
Hack: I’ve mixed up the sauce at home and brought it in a cooler and then just cooked pasta and mixed it when serving.

The kids crack up popping edamame out of the pods. This one is great variety to lots of grilled dinners and easily the fastest meal (also great for a vegetarian/meatless meal).

Chicken/Pork/Kielbasa with Coconut Rice & Pineapple

Sides: cucumber salad goes well on the side or the pineapple could be on the side.
Alternatives: Kielbasa and Pineapple can go on kebobs to grill for a really summery format of the same dish.
Hack: Grab a microwave packet of coconut rice! Done! Sometimes there’s pulled pork already cooked at Trader Joe’s or in the regular grocery store. I would bring the pulled pork versus cooking a pork shoulder in a crockpot while away but go for whatever works for you!


Peach, Mozzarella, Cucumber Salad with Grilled Chicken

The Three Bite Rule - Peach & Mozzarella Salad

Sides: Serve this salad with few other cold salads, some grilled chicken and some corn would be a fun meal!
Alternatives: Add some bake-at-home rolls or a tube of biscuits if you’re fulfill a starch need for some of your eaters too.
Hack: A bottle of balsamic reduction lasts forever and might be useful for a caprese salad another night!

The kids were super into peaches and loved this one. We do tomato/mozz salad often so this wasn’t a reach for us. Or if some of the crowd would be into this a tomato/mozz/basil one alongside it would fit in well.


Mediterranean Night Naan flatbreads, a chopped Greek Salad or Greek Pasta Salad and some dips

The Three Bite Rule - Greek Hummus Flatbreads

Sides: chopped greek salad or veggies with hummus & tzatziki to dip
Alternatives: The flatbreads can be topped with anything – these have hummus (or jarred tapenade) and cheese, some feta, some chicken sausage or grilled eggplant/zucchini. Maybe make half the flatbreads chicken sausage, half vegetarian. Serve everything separate with some orzo or rice to be a bowl for a custom option!
Hack: Chicken sausages are fully cooked (plan on ~1/2 or 1/3 link per flatbread) and you’re not messing with dough so these can go in the oven or the grill just to melt the cheese and warm through! Sticking to 1 kind of hummus and not all the same veggies in the salad AND on top of the flatbreads will make them seem different.

Unused flatbreads can dip into any leftover hummus for your next snack!


Top Your Own Pasta Bar

The Three Bite Rule - Kale Pesto

Sides: a tossed salad plus the pasta “toppings” might fit well for a lighter meal if anyone opts for no pasta
Alternatives: 1 pasta, 2 sauce options – tomato & a pesto/alfredo/brown butter?, some add ins like grilled veggies (bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, tomatoes, etc) and capers or olives or parmesan.
Hack: Go for jarred sauce when on vacay and meatballs from the freezer section! Any un-grilled veggies can be veggies & dip another time!

This would be such a hit with my crowd. Also easy for any one to put together. Again – don’t go crazy. The possibilities are endless but plan on a few!


Snacky Dinner might help if people are coming & going and you have dessert planned. Kids love unusual dinners like these. Serve a few dips, crackers & cheese, and some salads and call it a meal. Then go for ice cream. 🙂

The Three Bite Rule - Watermelon Mint Relish

Plan on hitting a few categories: vegetarian, a cooked one, a cold one, one they can build/customize, and span a few food groups. This is also helpful if there’s a day of a big lunch or late lunch! Some could be a picnic on the beach, by a playground, on a boat – however you vacation!

Watermelon & Cuke “salsa” is delicious and can be out awhile
Cheeseburger Potato Skins could warm on the grill
Meatball Sliders could be assembled by the eater
Deviled Eggs get swooped up at parties- though they can’t sit out a long time so serve in smaller quantities and refill
Wings on the grill are good
Soft pretzels from the freezer are a treat for us – bake/toast oven bake for 4 minutes and are for lunch sometimes too.


A pre-dinner snack helps if the group is eating later than some are used to (kids!) – just don’t make it better than dinner or don’t let it take too long to then delay dinner! Veggies & salad dressing dip or a string cheese or a deviled egg or some trail mix right after a day at the beach helped tide us over to make it to dinner time while we took turns showering and getting ready and somebody cooking.

Our 3ish families typically plan a few dinners at the rental, takeout, and a few dinners out when we’re away for a week. We bring some things or ingredients we definitely need, then get remaining groceries once we’re there- based on our meal plan (also since we’re not flying to the beach). Covid messed with us a bit but we liked takeout the night we got there so we didn’t HAVE to grocery shop upon arrival.

Have fun!

BBQ Chicken Rice Bowl

I love a rice bowl because of the customization options! The little ones always surprise me with what is a hit any particular day and the bowls ensure everyone has the same things- maybe more of some parts than others. The littlest was most into the chicken and the big one loved the grilled zucchini…who knew! These were only a slight variation from grilling a few things.

The Three Bite Rule - BBQ Chicken Rice Bowl

BBQ Chicken Rice Bowls

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water/broth
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
4 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons mixed herb seasoning (we love Todd’s Dirt, or Italian seasoning, etc)
1 large zucchini
2-3 tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian dressing
1 teaspoon honey

Cook the rice (mine took 7 minutes in the pressure cooker – or it could be made in advance too). Then mix in 1 tablespoon BBQ sauce.
Preheat the grill.
Season the chicken with the dried herbs. Then slice the zucchini into coins and brush with olive oil on both sides.
Grill the chicken and when almost cooked through, add the zucchini to the grill for the last few minutes.
Chop the tomatoes and mix with Italian dressing.
Whisk or shake together the remaining 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce with the honey.
Spoon the bbq rice into each bowl, then top with sliced chicken, zucchini, tomatoes.
Drizzle with honey bbq sauce and Enjoy!

The Three Bite Rule - BBQ Chicken Rice Bowl

Our kids tend to want things separate but I love love love the bites together. Letting them surprise us is always worth it. Grilled zucchini isn’t something we have all the time but they liked it. They do not love brown rice but I think the BBQ sauce made them a bit more into it, and we don’t try to please everyone all the time.

Avocado would be great in here, or corn, or greens, or cheese. The rice could be any grain or starch – farro or potlenta or orzo or couscous…go wild! I usually do a grain + a protein + 2 or more veggies + drizzle of something. I like contrasts of cooked and raw veggies. Here are others!