November meant the end of maternity leave and back to work. My blog also turned 8. Woah! We were getting into our groove again, and we continue to. The babe got used to her reflux meds and either that, or eating a little more, or hitting the 3 month benchmark, or sleeping a bit more, or all have made a world of difference!
We are THIIIIIIS close on the basement renno being done. Can. not. wait. We all are anticipating space: lounge area with a TV; play area with the train table, play kitchen & toy storage; laundry room; powder room; desk space; and storage space. It has taken foreverrr. The end is in sight!! I’m itching for big time organization, cleaning, and getting things settled that have been in limbo for months! Ok, onto the food.
Our fam fav dinner this month might have been these Thanksgiving meatballs!
This fall hot dog with apple slaw was super fun and I hope it graces somebody’s football game watching!
French Toast with Salted Caramel Cider Sauce is so good, and very fall-winter-ish.
December is such a fun and busy time of year. I’m bringing you some quick meals that can use leftovers or work as a cook once, eat twice plan for you. Maybe something healthy will sneak in there since there’s enough party food elsewhere? We’ll see!
The Little Boy:
He had some rocky days of listening at daycare. I wish toddlers could express themselves! I think we’re back on track. He’s been into play-doh, knex, and working outside with Mr. J. Meat isn’t always his fav but he liked chicken marsala with sauce from Trader Joe’s and he ate the Thanksgiving meatballs. I loved seeing him assemble his plate like ours. He often wants foods a bit separate so it was cute to see him imitate our plating. It was fun seeing him take bites of a big burrito and I wrapped the bottom with foil for him to hold telling him that’s like at a restaurant. I’m working to ensure foods he likes appear in other formats, hence, the burrito. He’d eat pasta every night if we let him decide. Edamame in the shells are so fun to him. He’s pretty adventurous when he encounters foods he doesn’t remember or doesn’t have all the time- i.e. soup, lasagna, eggplant, shrimp etc. I love when he tells me dinner is SO good.
The Baby Girl:
She’s sleeping like a rockstar in the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit! She started rolling when swaddled and giving us a heart attack! The first day sleeping in the suit she napped more in that day then the past several months of her entire life. She’s finally done with that infant nightly meltdown and I’m ever so grateful. I’m hoping we can let her sleep through the night once she weighs a bit more. She got to a double digit weight- 10 pounds at 3.5 months old! She’s super smiley to all of us and cracks up seeing her big brother! She just needs to eat more.
Year of ___ decluttering/minimizing/organizing: November kicks off by sending a ThreadUp batch full of maternity clothes to say goodbye to!
Feeding Littles: I only did once or twice in Instagram stories. I’ll keep at it.
Work on advanced food prepping: yes! I got a leg up when Mr. J was home and could turn something on. I prepped broccoli & cheddar soup one morning before we ate it that night and getting chicken cooked to just warm in marsala sauce was hugely helpful.
What I’m reading: I read Himself for bookclub and didn’t love it. I read Educated and Crazy Rich Asians couldn’t put either one down.
What I’m watching: Now that our little lady naps, we’ve watched some several-months-old DVR! I cannot wait for Dec when I’ll be into Christmas movies & music!
I’m fully embracing all the fall flavors despite already having a bit of snow! I added apple cider to a salted caramel sauce and it was a hit! The apples were lightly cooked for extra flavor while maintaining a good crunch. This will be a great breakfast if you have family around for Thanksgiving- make the sauce in advance and cook the french toast “to order” as folks make their way out of bed!
We make tons of waffles at our house, the occasional pancakes, but rarely french toast. Challah bread turned that ratio around! It is quite sweet but the salted caramel sauce has great flavor. I was wishing I had thought about a side of bacon.
Salted Caramel Cider French Toast (for 4)
1/4 cup apple cider
1/2 cup salted caramel sauce
1/2 loaf Challah bread (or 4 thick slices of bread)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Slice the bread and chop the apple.
Add cider and 1/4 cup of the caramel sauce to a small pan over medium heat. Bring it to a low boil for ~15 minutes to reduce slightly. Then reduce the heat to low and add in the remaining caramel sauce and chopped apple. Cook for about 5 minutes more.
Heat a pan or griddle to middle heat.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, and nutmeg.
Dredge each slice of bread into the egg mixture on each side. Pan fry them ~3 minutes on each side. Reserve in the oven to keep warm if cooking in batches.
Serve with sauce. Enjoy!
We all liked this one. I tested it out as bfast for myself and then immediately made more sauce so we could all have it over the weekend! The sauce was great made ahead of time! It would be a great topping on baked french toast as a whole pan if taking it somewhere!
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have lots to eat as you think about what makes you thankful.
Could this ‘dog be any more fall? It all started with a long pretzel bun and I knew it needed a fall festive hot dog since this is the ideal weather for grilling! There’s melty white cheddar under there and a slaw of apples, onion, and arugula. It is spectacular and would be super fun for an afternoon game watching – especially since, I’m only watching football for the snacks!
Swap the hot dog for a sausage or bratwurst or whatever you like! I recently tried the Beyond Meat sausage and think this would be a good combo for that too! I made this for a lunch but it was a really great use for some frozen-since-summer hot dogs!
Fall Hot Dog with Apple Slaw and a Pretzel Bun (for 2)
2 long pretzel buns
2 hot dogs/sausages/bratwursts
1/4 white onion
1/2 cup arugula, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 slices sharp white cheddar
Finely chop the apple, white onion, and arugula while preheating the grill. (This is easy to make indoors on a pan as long as you toast the roll too.)
Mix together the apple, onion, arugula, olive oil, and vinegar. Refrigerate until serving.
Grill the dogs/sausages/brats until cooked through. While they cook, toast the pretzel bun and melt the cheese onto it.
Assemble with the toasted roll, melted cheese, dog/sausage/brat and spoon the apple slaw over the top.
This is the perfect fall food. The slaw is really addictive- as in, I ate the leftovers with a spoon. The pretzel roll and really good quality white cheddar made me really fall in love with this. Originally I was thinking apple slices but the slaw format allowed for the sweet crunch with acidic dressing to be in each bite and it seems like a real dog topping. My pretzel bun is from Trader Joe’s but my grocery store has them in this shape occasionally and I’ve seen them at Whole Foods too. I cut out a sliver to make the roll smaller and keep the ratio how I wanted it.
My little blog is 8! How crazy is that! I love this hobby and am so glad you’re here! This was a big year (new baby! new job! basement renovation! big trip to Zion!). I’m ready to now dive deeper into where I am at this season of my life. I have a lot I can build on and I’m so so happy where I am so no big changes ahead (fingers crossed)!
I haven’t really set out with super grand plans for the next year of the blog but I’m thinking I’ll keep on going as long as it is fun! Switching to once a week feels like a do-able and sustainable schedule. I refer back to my own site often and I’m never out of ideas. It is useful to push myself and I absolutely love hearing from people who tried something or have an idea for me.
Without further ado, here are my totally biased superlatives and next year’s goals at the end!
My fav post of the year: Coconut Shrimp Tacos
Most loved instagram foodie photo: Garlic Butter Crust Pizza
Best Burger of the year: Sausage Burger on a Pretzel Bun though, this Garlic Lovers Burger one will be jealous 😉
Best series: #grilledcheeseplease was so fun
Best appetizer of the year: Breakfast Deviled Eggs
Most repeated dish: Breakfast risotto with bacon, white cheddar, everything bagel seasoning and an egg.
Fav photo of the year: Pesto Flatbread
2018 goal recap:
Year of the candle: this was great! One of my best “year of ___” ever
Cook more appetizers/snacks: ehh, I did a few
Taking time to blog thoughtfully: I’d say I did occasionally.
Journal the cute moments of my little one: yup
What I’m reading: I’m up to 24 books read this year (follow my books here)! The upside of being awake so much when I was pregnant was reading a ton. I don’t anticipate as many next year! Mama needs some sleep!
What I’m watching: I really got into American Crime Story when they did Gianni Versace this year. I didn’t actually binge as much during maternity leave as I thought I might but watched some of The Crown and some of Big Little Lies.
Year of ___ decluttering/minimizing/organizing I normally treat myself to something (earrings/candles/seasonal decor) but after the world’s longest basement renno, I’m craving a spot for everything and now that the baby is here, we know what we need and what we’re done with. November kicks off by sending a ThreadUp batch full of maternity clothes to say goodbye to!
Feeding Littles: I got great feedback on toddler lunch packing and toddler dinner ideas so I’m hoping to incorporate those onto the blog more since our three-year-old is served what we’re eating.
Work on advanced food prepping: I do this a bit, but after work is not a time I can do much cooking on weeknights. I need to be a step ahead!
What I’m reading:
What I’m watching: I’ll probably set my next goal for 18 books since that’s what I did in 2017 and still feels lofty enough.
Here are all the fall flavors! These meatballs were so fun and I was so happy with them! I made this pork/pear/sage burger into meatballs for the annual pear-picking party my friends have and it got me thinking about how easy it is to make meatballs! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I stock frozen meatballs for super speedy dinners, but special occasion meatballs are really worth it!
My little family loved these Thanksgiving flavors of poultry, cranberries, sage, and stuffing! Our toddler isn’t always 100% into meat but he doesn’t pass on gravy (or anything that can be dipped), so these were a hit with him! I’m glad to have another serving in the freezer to repeat again. I served them over mashed potatoes with a little gravy. It may have been super warm the night I made these, but we loved them nonetheless.
Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
1 cup stuffing (~1/3 of a box of stuffing)
1 pound ground chicken/pork/turkey
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
salt & pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Prepare the stuffing according to the package, or make your own. (It is a great use for leftovers since you only need about 1 cup prepared).
Mix up the ground meat, stuffing, eggs, stuffing, cranberries, sage, and salt & pepper.
Heat a large frying pan with vegetable oil to medium heat.
Form the mixture into balls and pan fry them. Gently turn them to brown on each side and then drain on paper towels to remove any excess oil. (I pan fried mine just to brown them since I was making them in advance and then finished them in the oven just before serving.)
These are the epitome of fall! I loved the balance of these flavors and the comfort of the format. Meatballs are suddenly seeming like my new favorite format for special occasion flavors. I’ll stick to pre-made for every-day meatballs I can zap and have dinner ready in no time. I’m very into them as ways to enjoy unique flavors. Whip these up after Thanksgiving to use up the last of your leftover stuffing, sage, and gravy when nobody wants to see another turkey meal! They could be a fun appetizer too for a holiday get together or a friendsgiving if you’re not making a whole turkey!
The end of October also brings the end of my maternity leave. It is bittersweet. I’ve loved my time with my babe and feel like I’ve made the most of it. I also love working. I’m so grateful for the job I have and feel really at peace to return. I learned with our little boy that working is really right for me.
Once I got my footing with a newborn and toddler, I cooked some fun things and I’m psyched for what I have prepped for the blog! I’m feeling great about one post a week being sustainable. I’m prepped well ahead so I can enjoy the blogging process, have room to keep going, and to not feel stressed. I have a few very seasonal meals up next!
While not made this October, but blogged >365 days after the making, the cutest Pumpkin Shaped Cheddar Cheeseball got to grace the blog!
I also toyed with the concept of a capsule meal plan and fell in love! This season for my life was screaming for some structure while meal planning. Obviously I care a ton about our family eating varied foods together at the table so this bit of structure to plan really helped me. I’ll continue to plan weeknight meals with nights of: pasta or pizza; Mexican; anything goes (aka, leftovers or the easiest thrown together dinners); and whatever else seems good to add in that particular week. Try it. Tell me what you think!
I made a fun Chocolate Mint Smoothie to use the mint that was still flourishing in my garden.
Plus, this month had a French inspired grilled cheese that has a truly pumped up flavor.
The Little Boy:
He’s so interested in rhyming which is funny. He can hear it in books but when figuring out his own words that rhyme is comical. He loves pealing his own banana and has been eating really everything. I got these marshmallows and he has loooved them as treats. He’s pretty psyched for Halloween. We got to go to a few fun events at the library since I’ve been home. He thought the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was hysterical. I get a kick out of his love for being cozy- me too! He’ll do anything for the prospect of getting cozy- get those jammies on after the tub so you’ll be cozy, put your jacket on so you’ll be cozy, etc.
The Baby Girl:
She’s close to 3 months old and will start daycare soon. We joke she’ll learn to nap there. She’s very smiley and sweet- especially since she really doesn’t sleep much during the day. We are trying to get her to eat more. She’s itty bitty. I swear she’d pretty much sleep through the night if we didn’t have to wake her to eat. Once she gains some weight we’ll be able to stop waking her. She loves the tub when we put her in with her big brother. She hates getting her nails trimmed.
This Year’s Goals:
Year of the candle: I got this Honeycrisp Apple Trader Joe’s one and it is gooooood
Cook more appetizers/snacks: nope
Taking time to blog thoughtfully: ehh. blogging at all at this season is an accomplishment in my book.
Journal the cute moments of my little one: I need to do more of this
What I’m reading: I read Homegoing and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
What I’m watching: I’m watching Big Little Lies and A Million Little Things
I loooove to jazz up grilled cheese. I want crunch of the bread and beyond-the-average flavors for my grilled cheese. Bread + cheese doesn’t seem to be enough for me. Evidence: this grilled cheese lorraine; or grilled cheese with sweet potato & sage; or turkey & pear grilled cheese; or I could go on…
This time I took some easy tweaks to the basic and think the herb butter spread for the outside is such a win! The outside is super crunchy and flavorful and the inside has 3 cheeses plus rosemary and dijon feel a bit French and just perfect for fall.
French Inspired Grilled Cheese
Ingredients: (for 2 sandwiches)
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons mayo
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
salt & pepper
4 slices of good quality bread
2 slices gruyere cheese
2 slices white American cheese
1 slice Provolone cheese
Mix together the butter, mayo, rosemary, olive oil, and salt & pepper.
Prep it in advance, or mix and spread onto the outer side of the bread.
Assemble the sandwiches with dijon on the inside, cheeses, then the flavored butter on the outside.
Pan fry on each side until melty and toasted.
How golden and delicious does that look? My bread had even lived a full life and came out of retirement from the freezer and still came out amazing. The herbs on the outside make it even more perfect. Don’t think twice about mayo being on the outside. That’s what restaurants do! That’s what grilled cheese food trucks do! A drizzle of truffle oil would be fantastic to keep that French inspiration.
I made this for lunch in 5 minutes, but it is special enough to make a meal out of for dinner!
Psst: have leftover rosemary? Make this honey rosemary cream cheese and you can thank me later 🙂
This adorable (and seasonable) appetizer is a year in the making. I made this forever-ago but didn’t get to blog it soon enough and then it seemed weird to encourage anyone to shape food into a pumpkin shape once the mindset is onto the next holidays! It is so stinking cute, super easy, and delicious.
Pumpkin Shaped Cheese Ball
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
3/4 cup orange cheddar
1 cup Cheez-Its (Cheddar Grooves are really great for this)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
Stem from a bell pepper
crackers to serve
Bring the cream cheese to room temperature.
In a food processor (or pounded in a ziplock bag), pulverize the cheez-its. Then remove most of it, leaving ~1/4 cup in the food processor.
Add in the cream cheese, cheddar, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and salt & pepper.
Remove and form into a ball, wrapping in plastic wrap. In the wrapped ball, make pumpkin-like ridges from the top to bottom, about an inch apart. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until serving.
Before serving, unwrap and roll it in the remaining cheez-it crumbs.
Add the bell pepper stem and serve with crackers.
I loved this, and it is show-stopping cute. I like the simplicity of it but it isn’t shy on flavor. I brought it to a get together and just rolled the crumbs before serving. I’ll totally make this again. Orrrr make this cute carrot one but shape it like a pumpkin. So festive! This one is so fitting for October AND November.
Capsule wardrobes are definitely a thing so why isn’t capsule meal planning a thing? I’m doing it! Capsule wardrobes are a smaller selection to mix and match to make choosing easier. Meal planning needs some of those same principles! Starting a meal plan for the week can feel daunting but having a plan, getting the ingredients, maybe doing some prep in advance, and sharing the plan with those eating it are all keys to success. I always meal plan factoring in weather, speed/ease of prep, and what we have going on but why not add in a few more guidelines?
I came up with a bunch of themes and categories and definitely think it has made planning and executing meals easier! I decided to choose a few as the starting point to then plan with our favorites. I’m focusing on weeknights since those are for sure the craziest around here. What are your weeknight go-tos? I need to know!
Here’s my running list of weeknight dinner themes:
night of bfast
night of meatless (here are some of mine, and more of mine)
night of international: Mexican/Mediterranean/Italian/Thai/Indian
night of pizza/pasta/calzone
night of panini/soup/salad
night of grilling
night of a grain bowl dinner (some of our favs are here)
night of anything goes (that means fast, not creating leftovers but maybe even using a leftover item, maybe not everyone eats the same thing: often eggs/quesadillas/grilled cheese/pasta)
night of takeout (that’s what we do on Fridays)
Last week, here’s what we did:
Mon = night of calzone: sausages & onions
Tues = night of crockpot: BBQ pulled pork & roasted butternut squash
Wed = night of pasta: tortellini w/ alfredo
Thurs = night of Mexican: pork tacos & fiesta bean salad
Fri = night of takeout
The prior week, here’s what we did:
Mon = night of salads: build your own salad bar
Tues = night of anything goes
Wed = night of grilling: hot dogs & broccoli salad
Thurs = naan pizzas
Fri = night of takeout
This week, here’s what we did/are having:
Mon = night of pasta: spaghetti & tomato sauce and salad
Tues = night of a blogged dinner (coming soon! it is very fall inspired!)
Wed = night of a freezer food recreated (loaded waffle fries with pulled pork, beans, corn, queso, & avocado)
Thurs = night of anything goes (my bookclub night this week!)
Fri = night of takeout
I tried it out a few weeks. I can honestly say it makes creating a meal plan so much easier. I haven’t quite set our themes we’ll do every week, but I’d guess during this busy season of our lives, I’ll keep: pasta/anything goes/takeout and that leaves 2 other weeknights to get creative or do whatever we’re in the mood for. Tacos/Mexican seems like a likely theme we may have most weeks too. Even 3 weeknights covered with a starting point seems helpful!
What are your go-tos for weeknight dinners??
Anyone who grows mint has it in spades. Anyone who buys mint also probably has extra and wants to get their money’s worth. Everyone wins! In the fall, our herb garden goes bananas and I’m seeking all the ways to use the herbs at hand. I hadn’t made a smoothie with mint this whole season, not since last year’s mojito smoothie (which is also a delicious one). The mint flavor is also perfect to go with a green smoothie. Adding the chocolate flavor muddies the color, but it is ohh-so-worth it.
Chocolate Mint Smoothie
1 cup spinach/kale
1/2 cup greek vanilla yogurt
1/2 apple, frozen
1/2 banana, frozen
hand-full of fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
Add greens, vanilla, and milk. Blend throughly.
Then add in the apple, banana, mint, cocoa powder, ground flax seeds.
I loved this one! It tastes like dessert but starting the day with a fruit and a veggie is the best. The mint is nicely refreshing and the chocolate makes this taste like a total treat. If the color turns you off, pop it into a cup with a cover. This is totally a keeper!
Use your mint for these mojito shrimp and in this zucchini/ricotta/herb pasta and then for this smoothie!