These took a few tries to get real lemonade flavor but were so fun! They are lemony and sweeter than a regular pancake. Top with some strawberries for arguably one of the best combos out there!
Lemonade Pancakes with Strawberries Ingredients (for ~5 pancakes) 1 cup pancake mix 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest 3/4 cup lemonade 1 teaspoon lemon juice 2 drops yellow food coloring (optional) ~6 large strawberries 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Directions: Mix together the pancake mix, lemon zest, and lemon juice until really well mixed.
Add in the lemonade and yellow food coloring (if using). Preheat a griddle or large skillet. Spray with non-stick spray or butter and scoop the batter onto the pan. Cook for ~3 minutes, once they bubble, flip and cook another few minutes. While the pancakes cook, cut the strawberries into slices. Sprinkle in a little sugar and a tablespoon of water. Stir well. Top the pancakes with the strawberries. Enjoy!
I loved these! The yellow was just to further encourage the lemon-ness. We made them first with just lemonade and there was zero lemon flavor.
Alternatively, spread some lemon curd (often sold near jelly) on a pancake and top with some strawberries for a similar vibe!
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.
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!
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.
Goals: 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.
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!
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
Directions: 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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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). ____________________________________________________________________________
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!
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.
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!
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. 🙂
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.
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.
BBQ Chicken Rice Bowls Ingredients: 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
Directions: 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!
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!
June is such a blur – the end of the school year, last tee-ball game, warm weather, and the end of the fiscal year at work all to really start summer. I’m looking forward to more pool days and many many more ice cream trips.
I made rolled tacos as such a fun lunch in the airfryer with some leftovers. There’s pulled pork, black beans, cheese and are topped with a lime crema. The toastiness all the way through makes them special.
It was Birthday burger time – this time was a Waffle Breakfast Burger! The patty had sausage mixed into it and we had them on a waffle with a hot maple aoli.
Also, these Italian Deviled Eggs are so packed with flavors. The herbs and parmesan, and balsmic drizzle are so good together. All my fav variations of deviled eggs are there too.
The Little Girl: She was so happy her big bro is done with school (him not so much). They’ve had lots of play time and then some solo-time with the grandparents. Pink is her fav these days. We love when she says something she’s eating is “very. very. good.” in a deep voice.
The Big Guy: He was sad for kindergarten to end. His teacher was so wonderful and the year included all the fun you’d expect for elementary school – field day, popsicles, water balloons. Transitions are tough. He’s around for a few weeks before day-camp starts so we fit some fun things and had some chill time. The libraries being open is thrilling! We’ve borrowed so many fun books. He’s doing swim lessons and it is so fun to see.
Goals: Year of the fun mail! My coworker is leaving so I sent a card. More breakfasts: Not really this month Lunches coordinated or prepped in advance: Mostly sandwiches or leftovers, the rolled tacos became lunch. I’d like to get the house a bit neater: ehh. I dropped a few boxes at Savers. Bullet journal – still keeping a meals list. What I’m reading: I finally got my hands on Vanishing Half which was captivating and had great perspectives. Only after I finished The Astonishing Color of After did I realize it is a YA one- who knew? I flew through The Last Thing He Told Me which was pretty good and a welcomed variety. With the Fire on High wasn’t amazing, her other was unbelievable so my standards are high here. What I’m Watching: I’m suuuper late but catching up on Million Little Things. We loved Farmhouse Fixer and AGT started.
These Italian Deviled Eggs are a twist on traditional deviled eggs with lots of herbs, some balsamic drizzle, Italian dressing, and parmesan cheese! I loved these and it would be good as egg salad too!
Italian Deviled Eggs Ingredients (for 12 eggs) 1 dozen eggs, hard boiled and cooled 2 tablespoons of 2 or more herbs (basil, parsley, chives – or any combo also with rosemary, oregano, or thyme) 3 tablespoons mayo 1 teaspoon yellow mustard 2-3 tablespoons Italian dressing 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated 1 small tomato, seeds removed 1 tablespoon balsamic reduction (optional)
Directions: Slice the eggs in half and pop the yolks into a bowl with basil, parsley, chives, mayo, mustard, Italian dressing, parmesan, and salt & pepper.
Mix very well, breaking up all the yolks. A hand mixer works well or it could go in a food processor. Place a plastic zip-top bag into a glass or a small bowl to stand upright while you scoop the filling in. (It can remain like this until serving in the refrigerator with the egg halves.)
When serving, chop the tomatoes separating out the seeds so they are not too wet and drippy. Push the filling to the bottom corner of the bag and snip the end off to have about 1/4 inch opening. Fill each egg half (I fill each to be level with the egg to know that there’s enough, then I can go back and top each with a swirl higher to all be even.) Sprinkle with tomatoes and drizzle with balsamic. Enjoy!
I loved these! The herbs and the salty parmesan with the sweet balsamic was so great together. They are nice for variety in a spread – flavorful, not super heavy, protein, no gluten if that matters.
If you have leftover balsamic – you’ll use it a million ways! A drizzle on pizza, on tomatoes, on caprese salad, on grilled veggies, on grilled cheese – or whatever! You could skip it, but it lasts forever and I definitely recommend it. Top with some shaved parmesan if skipping the balsamic!
We often have deviled eggs as a side for dinner or as party food. They travel well – though need to stay very very cold so you could bring them ready to assemble to serve. These little egg holders are worth their weight in gold – for your fridge or transport. Without an egg tray, slice off a little so the egg cup will sit flat. I didn’t transport them to walk them down the deck stairs – they felt so secure as-is!
You also could chop it all and serve it as egg salad! Scoop some onto melba toasts and top with the tomatoes and balsamic reduction.
For the 10th year of a Birthday Burger, we had this breakfast burger on a waffle with sausage mixed into the patty, a maple aoli, and some goey gouda cheese. Happy birthday my love!
Waffle Breakfast Burger Ingredients: (serves ~4 with a smaller burgers like sliders) 1 Belgian waffle ~3/4 pound ground beef/pork/chicken ~1/4 pound breakfast sausage 2 tablespoons mayo 2 tablespoons maple syrup 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce 4 slices gouda cheese 1 small sliced tomato
Directions: Prepare waffle (optional: I added some shredded cheddar into the batter) and let it cool. Slice into 4ths, and sliced in half width-wise for 4 ‘buns’. (2 ‘buns’ pictured). Toast them before serving if they were made in advance.
Mix together the ground meat and breakfast sausage until incorporated but not overworked. Preheat the grill. Grill the burgers until cooked through (depends on the ground meat and the pork). Top with cheese. While the burgers cook, whisk together the mayo, maple syrup and hot sauce.
Assemble the burgers with a spread of sauce on the insides of the waffles (since I halved mine) and add the burgers and sliced tomato. Enjoy!
These were so fun! I had ground pork with the breakfast sausage. I could definitely taste both flavors. Maple breakfast sausage might be very sweet but give it a go!
They would be so fun for a brunch. Using formed sausage patties on tiny waffles (with the cheese and tomato and sauce) would be a great finger food for a breakfast spread!
Adaptations: Use frozen waffles (a standard one, like an Eggo waffle, would need a whole waffle as the top bun and a whole waffle as the bottom bun – those cannot be halved width-wise! They could be cut smaller to fit a slider-size burger too) Swap any cheese! Add a fried egg! Use maple sausage! Go for all the hot-sauce you’d like – for me, it was really to keep the sauce from being so so sweet.
Hot weather brings on the smoothies! I rarely make them in the winter and this one is so so summery plus I have lots of adaptations for you!
It is a bit sweeter than my usual which I credit to a lemonade. Kids would love this and blueberry based smoothies are ideal for hiding greens. I don’t pretend they’re not there, but you also don’t see them in the finished one.
Blueberry Lemonade Smoothie Ingredients: (for 2 small servings as snack, or 1.5 large servings as meal) 1 1/2 cups greens (mine is baby spinach, then frozen) 3/4 cup vanilla yogurt 1 cup lemonade 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional) 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed 1 teaspoon lemon juice lemon zest
Directions: Blend together the greens, yogurt, and lemonade. Then add in the blueberries, protein powder, flaxseed, and lemon juice. Blend well and add a splash of water if needed for consistency and pour into cups. Top with some lemon zest. Enjoy!
I loved this one and like them to be a breakfast meal – sometimes with a handful of cheerios or 1/2 a granola bar or a hard boiled egg. I often workout in the morning and hate to feel like I’m only on liquids when I’m starving.
Adaptations: – swap lemonade for: lemon juice + water + honey/agave (doesn’t even have to be mixed- just dump it in!) – skip the protein powder and/or skip the flaxseed – increase the yogurt or swap for Greek yogurt – skip the yogurt all together or substitute banana for creaminess in a dairy free smoothie. – if using fresh fruit & greens, it won’t be as think/cold but adding in some ice helps. – if sharing with the kids, I usually water theirs down with whole milk and serve it as a drink, alongside their breakfast (~2 oz smoothie + 2 oz milk).
Since mine are usually a meal, I go for yogurt as a dairy serving and the protein powder to keep it filling (I like this kind best).
The best way to blend the greens is to incorporate with the liquids blending well then adding in other fruits. A high speed blender will blend them all at once. I blend all at once with a Vitamix and used to blend in 2 stages with a Ninja for the best consistency.
I buy baby spinach fresh in a bag and pop the whole thing into the freezer. Pulling out a bunch for the smoothie has such a satisfying splintering effect. Also in real life, I dump into the blender without measuring!
So I hear the difference between a taquito and a flauta is the tortilla (taquito=corn & flauta=flour). I had no idea. In my head, flautas were bigger – like with a larger tortilla and taquitos were more like snacks, smaller and more like a nacho than a meal.
While I don’t bring any authenticity to these, I whipped some up in the air fryer and they are adorable AND delicious. They could also be baked or pan-fried too with lots of filling options.
Rolled Tacos with Pork and Black Beans Ingredients: (serves 2 entrees, or 4 appetizers) 1 cup pulled pork 1 teaspoon taco seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoon each: cumin & chili powder) 5-6 small tortillas 2/3 cup black beans 1/4 cup sour cream 1 teaspoon lime juice cilantro
Directions: Warm the pork through to get it crispy. Warm the tortillas (I microwaved mine for 10 seconds). Whisk together the sour cream and lime juice.
Warm the beans and mash them with a spoon to spread onto the tortilla. Add pork onto each tortilla. Warm the air fryer/oven/skillet with oil. Carefully roll the tortillas and use two toothpicks to form an X to keep them rolled. Spray or brush with oil and cook until crisp. (I air fried mine for 10 minutes, flipping once.)
Drizzle with lime crema, sprinkle with cilantro or serve with shredded lettuce or chopped avocado and dip into salsa to dip.
These are so fun! They are cute and dipable and they stay together so well! I liked the beans spread onto it instead of taking a bite and beans rolling out.
Shredded chicken or ground meat or roasted sweet potatoes would all be great fillings too and any beans would work. These rolled tacos are an easy way to use small amounts of leftovers or to prep in advance.