hearty pork stew with carrots and mushrooms

it’s soup season! perfect stew for chilly fall nights

i’m just really really excited that it’s finally getting cool enough to be acceptable to make meals like this all the time. even though i still make them in the summer, it’s so much more satisfying to sit down with a hearty bowl of stew when it’s cold outside 🙂 i used leftover pork that i made in the instant pot, but you could use raw pork and you’d just need to adjust cooking time to make sure it gets tender. this stew would also be delicious with beef, and i’d recommend a chuck roast if you’re going to go that route.

we served it over roasted garlic mashed potatoes, but you could also serve with a crusty loaf of bread, and put potatoes in the stew. it’s so versatile, and also a great freezer meal.

ingredients

1.5 lbs cooked or uncooked pork shoulder*
1 onion
2-3 cloves minced garlic
5 large carrots
8-10 oz baby bella mushrooms
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil or butter
1.5 cups red wine
5 cups beef broth or stock (i love better than bouillon)
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

instructions

cut the pork into bite sized pieces and heat a large heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven to medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter and start browning the pork in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan. meanwhile, roughly chop the onion, carrots and mushrooms, as well as the garlic if you are using whole garlic cloves. i typically use the pre-minced garlic so that saves a step.

as the pork gets brown, transfer it to a plate. i used precooked pork that i had made in the instant pot the day before, and i still browned it in the pan just to get it a little more brown and start heating it through. turn the heat down to medium once the pork is done, and add the third tablespoon of olive oil or butter and start cooking the onions and carrots. cook until the onions become translucent, about 3-5 minutes. then add the garlic, mushrooms, thyme, and rosemary, and a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. cook the mushrooms down until all the liquid is released and evaporated. this took me about 8 minutes. add the pork back into the pan, mix everything thoroughly and then add the three tablespoons of flour. cook this for 2 more minutes, mixing the whole time so the flour doesn’t burn. add the red wine and boil for a minute. add the beef broth and worcestershire and bring the stew to a boil. turn it down to a simmer, and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes if using precooked pork. if you are using raw pork you will probably need to adjust your cooking time to make sure the pork gets tender, probably about an hour to an hour and a half. taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

we served the stew over roasted garlic mashed potatoes, but you could easily enjoy this with a nice crusty loaf of bread, add potatoes into the stew, etc. it’s really easy and versatile. hope you enjoy!

*for my instant pot pork shoulder, i used a large boneless pork shoulder, cut it into four pieces and removed the larger pieces of fat. then i seasoned with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, browned it over high in a large dutch oven and pressure cooked on manual with chicken broth, onions, thyme, rosemary, and garlic for 45 minutes until it was falling apart tender. i turned the cooking liquid into gravy and we had this the night before i made the stew.

showing my inner anglophile – chocolate chip traybake

chocolate chip traybake with peanut butter and chocolate fudge icing

Chocolate chip traybake cake
Chocolate chip traybake cake

like most people who have netflix, i am obsessed with great british bake off. i was actually obsessed with it before it was on netflix, and we also had the box set of the mighty boosh which i used to watch regularly with my brother. holla if you are familiar with this show… most people know of old greg, but have never really watched it past that. super weird, super british, absolutely hilarious, and definitely noel fielding’s best role. if you are into weird stuff or have a weird sense of humor defnitely check it out. i also have uk television shows on our cable, and will regularly relax with my glass of wine and watch antiques roadtrip, and obsessed with victorian farm. kind of on a tangent here, but you see where i’m going?

i’ve been working on my semi-homemade chocolate chip cake recipe, and for some reason i cannot make a regular cake to save my life. so this is why i always stick to traybakes (as the british call them, or a cake baked in a pan, not turned out and eaten in squares right out of the pan) or cupcakes. i feel like they are harder for me to ruin, there is no turning out the cake, trimming it, worrying about the icing looking perfect, etc. this traybaked poke cake is great because it reminds me of those tasty cake kandy kakes, but better because it’s homemade. and bigger. the fudge icing is from life above the cafe and i originally saw it on her instagram. she has the most amazing dessert recipes! definitely check out her blog. the cake recipe is modified from the wasc cake recipe from sugar geek show, and is super easy because it’s semi-homemade, and all you do is throw everything in the mixer together and turn it on. let me know if you try this chocolate chip traybake and what you think!

ingredients

cake
1 yellow box cake mix
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt – mountain high yogurt is delicious for baking or just by itself with some fruit or honey
1 cup milk
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter (1 stick)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
splash (1/8-1/4 tsp) almond extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups peanut butter – i love the simply nature organic peanut butter from aldi, it has no added sugar

frosting
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
5 oz evaporated milk
1 stick of unsalted butter

instructions

preheat your oven to 350, and prepare a 9×13 glass baking dish by spraying with cooking spray or coating with a stick of butter. in an electric stand mixer, or large bowl, combine the cake mix, flour, sugar, salt, yogurt, milk, butter, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts. with the paddle attachment or a whisk (if you’re using a regular bowl) beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. fold in the chocolate chips. pour into your prepared pan and bake 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. i checked mine at 30 minutes and it was still completely not set in the middle. i ended up adding about 12 more minutes of baking time, for a total of 42 minutes. it will depend on your oven. just ignore the instructions/ingredients on the back of the box and only use the ingredients listed here.

after the cake comes out of the oven and cools completely, poke holes all over the top of it using a straw. microwave your peanut butter for 30-40 seconds so it’s very pourable, and spread it all over the top of the cake. after this, start the icing. in a medium-large nonstick pot, whisk together the dry ingredients (sugar, salt, and cocoa powder). add the evaporated milk, whisk everything together and bring it to a rolling boil, whisking the entire time. set a timer for 2 minutes and let the mixture boil for exactly 2 minutes, whisking constantly. when the timer goes off, turn off the heat and whisk in the stick of butter. continue whisking for one more minute after the butter is completely incorporated to cool the mixture slightly.

then take the hot icing and pour it over top the peanut butter and spread evenly over the top of the cake. i usually take mine and tap the bottom on a wooden surface (so i don’t break the glass pan) until i see that the fudge frosting starts to go down into the holes in the cake. wait until it has cooled completely before cutting into it! the top will become crusty and crackly and delicious and this is a perfect snacking cake. you can tell i definitely didn’t let mine cool all the way before cutting into it, but it’s so tempting when the frosting is still warm and gooey and fudgy. sooooo delicious. let me know if you try it! the method for the icing is on my reels on instagram if you want to check it out 🙂

chicken and wild rice soup – it’s always soup szn in my heart

chicken and wild rice soup with mushrooms and spinach

Chicken and wild rice soup with mushrooms and spinach.

this chicken and rice soup has quickly become one of my family’s favorites, and it’s one of my go-to freezer meals. this recipe makes a huge pot of soup and you could easily eat it for dinner, have leftovers, and still have some to stash away in the freezer. i originally made this as a vegetarian soup with just mushrooms, and of course my husband had to make a “where’s the meat?” comment, so i added chicken. equally delicious either way. i always enjoy a good vegetarian meal, but he usually expects meat for dinner. my kids also could take or leave meat, and both love mushrooms so this works both ways for us. you can also use any chicken meat you have leftover or sitting around in the freezer. let me know if you try this recipe, and what you prefer; chicken and wild rice or mushroom and wild rice?

ingredients

2 cups of precooked chicken*
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
3-4 medium carrots, diced
2 ribs of celery, thinly sliced
8 oz baby bella or white button mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup wild rice
1/2 cup jasmine rice
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
8-10 cups chicken broth
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2-3 cups fresh baby spinach – chopped or torn into pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

instructions

normally i pre-chop all my vegetables/herbs before starting a recipe like this so i’m prepared when i need to add something in. so first, cut or shred up your chicken and set aside. chop carrots, onions, and celery and set aside. slice mushrooms and set aside. if you are mincing your own garlic, do that now as well and put it with the mushrooms, these will be added together.

heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add the two tablespoons of olive oil. saute the onions, carrots, and celery with a large pinch of salt and pepper until the onions start to become translucent, then add the mushrooms and garlic. continue cooking this mixture until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and it starts to evaporate. at this time add the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf, and add the chicken back in. once everything is heated through, about 2 minutes, sprinkle the two tablespoons of flour, and continue cooking the mixture for 2 more minutes. pour over the wine, chicken broth, and add the rice. make sure everything is combined and bring this to a boil. reduce the heat to low and simmer it partially covered for 45 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked. check and stir the soup to make sure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom, or you need to add more liquid. i usually start with 8 cups of broth, and if it seems like the rice has absorbed all the liquid or it’s sticking to the bottom, i add the additional 2 cups. once the rice is completely cooked through, you can then add in the spinach and simmer for about 5 more minutes until it’s heated through.

serve with croutons, or a nice crusty sourdough loaf like we do 🙂 hope you enjoy this soup as much as our family does!

*note about chicken – you could also use two fresh chicken breasts. if using this method, cut the chicken breasts into bite sized pieces, and brown them in the dutch oven over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in two batches, then set aside on a plate before starting to saute the vegetables. add them back in when you add in the herbs. i have made this recipe with chicken breasts using this method as well as chicken thighs that i had already precooked in the instant pot. a rotisserie chicken would also work really well.

5 easy meals for toddlers and busy moms

my favorite 5 easy meals to feed my kids when i’m feeling lazy

everyone knows feeding toddlers can be tedious. compound that with my husband being deployed last year, multiple trainings away from home, dealing with covid, and living 2500 miles away from any family. and despite loving to cook (i definitely don’t shy away from a complicated meal), i still feed my kids super simple easy meals when i just feel burnt out from being in the kitchen, or even when i know they won’t like what i’m eating for dinner. here are the five easy meals i find myself going back to over and over.

1. dino nuggets for the win!

easy meals for toddlers

i mean… who doesn’t love a good dino nug? i literally microwave them and usually serve with steamed fresh broccoli and some kind of fruit. always a hit, and so so easy especially for lunch. also, i haven’t been able to find these in california but my friend turned me onto these perdue plus chicken and vegetable dino nuggets… they are so delicious and it makes me feel better knowing they are getting a serving of veggies as well.

2. 3-ingredient naan pizza

this is one of our new favorites. all the ingredients come from aldi and it is so so easy. just take a piece of their naan bread, spread on some marinara, cover in shredded mozzarella, and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. comes out perfect every time, and i love it just as much as them. another version is to use premade bbq sauce instead of marinara, top with shredded chicken, mozzarella and finish with pickled red onions. easy bbq chicken pizza!

3. pb&j… a classic

simple and self-explanatory. my one year old actually prefers grilled cheese, but my 2.5 year old is team pb&j all day. we’ve been using the organic unsweetened peanut butter from aldi, and my kids don’t even notice the difference between that and the kind that has added oils and sugar.

4. chicken sausage

this is mostly for my 2.5 year old… the one year old won’t eat meat at all unless it’s a chicken nugget. these chicken sausages come from aldi and they have three flavors. our favorite is the apple sausage, but we also love the spinach feta, and my husband likes the italian. they’re precooked, so super easy to heat up for a quick lunch ror dinner. i will also be posting a skillet dinner i made with the spinach feta flavor that was delicious! i also love that they don’t have nitrates or any weird ingredients that you can’t pronounce.

5. cheese and crackers!

usually we’d think of cheese and crackers as a snack, but there isn’t any reason why we can’t have it as a meal. if my one year old won’t eat anything else, i know she will always eat sliced cheese. cheese has plenty of protein, and there is virtually no prep. my 2.5 year old likes the sharp cheddar from aldi, but sometimes i will even just give them presliced sandwich slices and they love that too. serve it with some steamed veggies or avocado and a fruit and you have a whole meal with hardly any cleanup.

let me know the easy meals you love to feed your little ones!

feeling spring – shepherd’s pie

shepherd’s pie with cheesy mashed potato topping, served with irish soda bread

picture of shepherd's pie
bowl of shepherd's pie
picture of irish soda bread

i literally forgot about st. patrick’s day this year until my sister reminded me, but happened to test this recipe last week for shepherd’s pie, so i was unexpectedly prepared for this! i did do late night baking last night so i would at least have the soda bread ready for the kids breakfast in the morning. i used this recipe for my soda bread from sally’s baking addiction and it was delicious and easy. the only thing i was missing was buttermilk, so i used her substitution of vinegar with 2% milk, and that worked just fine.

i used to loveeeee st. patricks day because that meant i got my favorite meal… corned beef and cabbage, haha! i would even ask my mom to make it on my birthday so i would get it twice in march. but with two little ones, i really can’t be bothered to boil corned beef for hours, and i already had all the ingredients for this shepherd’s pie in my fridge/freezer. the best thing about this recipe as opposed to corned beef and cabbage is it’s a great freezer meal! shepherd’s pie can be frozen before or after baking, and tastes just as good out of the freezer as it did on day one. plus, both my kids love it. if you give it a try, let me know what you think in the comments. happy st. paddy’s day everyone!

ingredients

meat filling
1 lb ground beef (i use the organic grass fed ground beef from aldi)
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
about 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (i used 1/2 a large onion)
2 cloves minced garlic
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon worcestershire
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables

potato topping
1 1/2-2 lbs potatoes – i used 6 small russet potatoes, or you could use 2-3 large potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 oz cream cheese
1/3-1/2 cup 2% or whole milk – i start with a third of a cup and add more if needed. you want this to be stiffer than traditional mashed potatoes
salt to taste – i start with a small amount, because we’re also adding cheese and cheese is salty!
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3/4 – 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

instructions

peel the potatoes, but them into bite sized chunks, and put them in a large pot covered with cold water. turn burner on high and bring them to a boil, then cook them for about 8-10 minutes until fork tender. set a timer if you need to so you don’t forget about them while you’re cooking the filling! preheat oven to 400 degrees. meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed skillet or dutch oven, melt the tablespoon of butter or olive oil over medium high heat and start browning the ground beef. once it’s all the way browned, check how much grease came off the meat. you may need to drain some if it looks too greasy! lower the heat to medium, then add your chopped half an onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. cook until the onion becomes translucent, and add in the 1 1/2 cups of frozen mixed veggies. cook this until the veggies lose their chill, 2-3 minutes, and then add the thyme, bay leaf, worcestershire, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and 2 tablespoons of flour. continue cooking this mixture for about 2 minutes, stirring continuously so the flour doesn’t burn to the bottom. then pour in the beef stock/broth and wine. bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for about 6-7 minutes. remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

drain your potatoes once they’re done and return to the pot with the burner still on low. start mashing the potatoes with the burner on to get all the liquid out of the potatoes. add the butter, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and grated cheddar. mash until combined and turn the burner off. i also sometimes add a little seasoned salt to taste if it feels like they’re missing something.

assemble the shepherd’s pie in a 9 inch pie plate by layering the meat mixture on the bottom and potatoes on top. bake at 400 degrees, uncovered for about 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. be careful when baking, if your dish is very full to put a sheet pan under the pie plate, because i’ve had filling run out all over my oven before! enjoy with soda bread and a guinness or glass of red wine 🙂 happy st. paddy’s day! ps. check out my very first cook with me video on youtube to see the exact method i used for this recipe!



homestead-y things – sourdough bread saga continued

poppyseed-raisin sourdough bread loaf with cultured butter

picture of sourdough bread with golden raisins and poppyseeds
picture of sourdough bread with golden raisins and poppyseeds, with butter and jam

this is one of my favorite sourdoughs recently, i love the sweet burst of golden raisins with the crunch of the poppyseeds. my toddler also loves it smeared with homemade cultured butter and his favorite “orange jam.” as long as i cut off the crusts for him… of course. it’s so soft and airy on the inside with that super crunchy crust. i’ll also post the recipe for the cultured butter we’ve been using for the past couple of months. so delicious spread on fresh sourdough or any bread. you can also use it for cooking, but it will lose the “cultured” properties once you cook it. this recipe is adapted from feasting at home’s no-knead sourdough bread, and please check out her post on sourdough starter as well if you need tips for that! for this recipe you will need a kitchen scale… except for measuring the half cup of whole wheat flour, i usually don’t use any cup measurements when i make bread. this is a long recipe, but check out the video below for the full method!

ingredients

520g flour (half a cup of whole wheat flour, and the rest bread flour)
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons poppyseeds
1 cup golden raisins
415g filtered water at room temperature
90g active sourdough starter (i usually feed mine 12 hours before making the dough, so it has time to rise and then fall again)
small amount of olive oil, just to coat bowl where bread will be proofing

equipment

kitchen scale
dutch oven – make sure the handle is metal, must be heat resistant!
parchment paper
bread lame or super sharp knife

instructions

when making this sourdough loaf, you want to start thinking about it 24 hours in advance of when you’ll bake it, because the starter needs 12-ish hours to do it’s thing once you feed it. the dough then takes about 12 more hours to proof, not counting the final proof in the fridge for an hour or more. i like to typically make my dough at night so it can proof on the counter overnight, or if i make it in the morning i will put it in the oven with the light on so it will take less time. if you leave it in the oven with the light on, make sure to keep an eye on it because i’ve had loaves proof in about 7 hours or less! you don’t want to end up over proofing it if it’s in a very warm place. it seems like a long process, but it’s so so worth it when you finally get to taste that amazing fresh home baked bread.

so the first step will be to feed your starter. or you can use starter that’s been in the fridge for up to a week for a more sour flavor. the longer it’s been sitting, the more sour it will taste. for this recipe, i typically will feed it 12 hours before i plan on making the loaf, since it has sweet elements (golden raisins), i like a more mild flavored bread. once the starter has peaked, and then come down again, it’s ready. you want it to come down again after it peaks because then you know it’s hungry again.

in a large bowl, combine your flours, salt, poppy seeds, and raisins. in a separate bowl, or 2 cup liquid measuring cup, use a fork to whisk together the water and active starter. it should look like cloudy water. pour in the water/starter mixture to the dry ingredients, and using a rubber spatula, start folding everything until it comes together into a rough dough ball, and there is no dry flour visible. at this point, i usually will coat a different bowl with olive oil and flip the dough ball out into this bowl to proof. you don’t have to do this… i just do it because i can’t stand it being in the messy bowl, ha ha. cover the dough ball with a damp dish towel, and sit in a warm spot to start proofing. let it sit for 15 minutes, and then you’re going to stretch and fold. take a look at the stretch and fold video in this post for a demo! i definitely tend to get a little bit more aggressive with my stretching and folding… so then you will let it proof for 15 more minutes, stretch and fold again, 15 more minutes and stretch and fold again. for a total of three times. i always let mine do the initial proof in the oven with the light on. i feel like it just stays warmer in there since our house doesn’t have great insulation. after that you can just leave it overnight on the counter or table with the damp towel on top.

in the morning (i wake up at 6:30 typically), check the rise on your dough. it should be just about doubled in size and have a domed top. you can take a wet finger and push it into the dough, and the indent should slowly start to fill back in.

you will then take your dutch oven, pop it into the oven with the lid on and preheat it to 470 degrees. you may need to play around with the temperature. initially i had it around 500, and it was wayyyyy too hot. my oven runs hot though. set your timer for an hour. the dutch oven needs to be super hot when you put the dough in. now you will do your final stretch and fold, place the dough into a smaller bowl lined with parchment paper and place in the fridge to proof while the oven preheats. take a bowl that is slightly smaller, i use a 1.5 qt pyrex, and line it with parchment. basically i just lay the sheet of parchment over the bowl and once the dough ball settles down into it, it lines itself. the final stretch and fold is a little different because you’ll actually lift the dough out of the bowl with both hands (make sure you wet your hands), hold it up in the air over the bowl, and let it fold down on top of itself. turn the bowl a quarter, and do it again. turn the bowl a quarter and do it again, but this time, it shouldn’t stretch nearly as much, and you will fold the bottoms in, and set the dough ball into the parchment lined bowl. see video for demo. then place it into the fridge while the oven heats up (one hour). you could also leave the dough in the fridge a little longer, 2-3 hours to develop the gluten further and develop a nice skin on the outside, making it easier to score. i found i was able to score it much easier when i left it in the fridge for 2 hours vs 1. usually i only preheat the oven for an hour.

once the hour is up, take out the dutch oven and be very careful removing the lid, make sure to remember your oven mitts, it will be extremely hot!! take the bread loaf out of the fridge, dust with flour, and score the top using a very sharp knife or bread lame. then pick it up in the parchment paper and place the whole thing (parchment included!) directly into the dutch oven. put the lid on and bake for 25 minutes at 470 degrees. during my initial bake i always put a sheet pan under my dutch oven because i was having issues with burnt bottoms on my bread. you will need to experiment to see if this will work for you or not. then remove the lid and bake for 10-15 more minutes, until the crust is deeply golden brown, and the middle is at least 200 degrees fahrenheit using a meat thermometer. let the bread loaf rest for at least 1 hour before slicing into it. the waiting is the hardest part! then enjoy your delicious homemade sourdough with your favorite toppings 🙂 recipe for cultured butter coming soon, and check out the video below for the full method!

another breakfast bake – caramelized onion and spinach strata

caramelized onion and spinach breakfast strata

picture of strata with caramelized onions and spinach

we’re all about the breakfast bakes right now apparently. mostly because i’ve been looking for more recipes that i can bake up at the beginning of the week and we can heat it up for multiple days. breakfast is one of the hardest meals for me, and it makes things so much easier when you have two toddlers to cook for in the morning, especially since ryan just left on a month long training. #militarylife. i love this caramelized onion and spinach strata because it’s easily customizable, you can add whatever you have on hand… next time ryan suggested i add potatoes and i’m definitely going to try that. eggs have so much nutrition, and it’s a fun way to get veggies in at the morning meal, as well as helping me use up yesterdays stale sourdough, which i always feel like gets wasted. homemade bread goes stale so fast because there are no preservatives, and casseroles are an amazing way to use that up. you can use whatever bread you have laying around! i find a crusty leftover loaf of bread works really well with this recipe though, because it stands up to the egg mixture and retains some chewiness rather than becoming all soggy in the casserole. hope you enjoy this yummy strata as much as we did! 🙂

ingredients

9 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped or just ripped into pieces
half a loaf of crusty bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 2-2 1/2 cups)
1 cup shredded cheese of choice
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon, but adjust based on your preferences)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
cooking spray or extra butter to coat baking dish

instructions

preheat your oven to 350 degrees. slice the onion thinly, add the butter and olive oil to a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. sauté the onions until they start to caramelize and brown, about 7-10 minutes. add the minced garlic and cook for one more minute, then take off the heat to cool slightly. honestly, you could caramelize these fully and it would add a more complex flavor, but i was being lazy and just got a little dark brown color on them knowing they would cook all the way through in the oven. while the onions are cooling, slice up your bread into 1 inch cubes, and set aside. whisk together the eggs, milk, heavy cream, shredded cheese, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and cheese. fold in the spinach and onion/garlic mixture and the bread cubes. spread evenly into a 9×13 baking dish that’s been sprayed with cooking spray or lined with butter. bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the bread is a golden brown, and it’s completely set in the middle. then enjoy for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner!

make-ahead [or day of] breakfast – baked oatmeal

easy mixed-berry baked oatmeal for breakfast

picture of mixed berry baked oatmeal with whipped cream
9x13 dish with mixed berry baked oatmeal

this easy baked oatmeal honestly turned out way better than i expected it to and my kids were both big fans. meals like this are great for breakfast or brunch with little ones because it’s quick to throw together and then we can have it for a few days in a row. especially delicious with a dollop of homemade whipped cream (or out of a can), it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser. this oatmeal can be made ahead and thrown in the oven the next morning, but honestly it’s super quick to whip up in the morning and takes only 35 minutes in the oven. i know a lot of people are in the camp of sugar is sugar, but i also love that this recipe uses coconut sugar, it makes me feel like i’m using a little bit of a more natural/less processed sugar option. i love the fresh burst of sweetness from the berries, but you could totally make it without them or substitute another fruit like peaches, apples, etc. it’s a great option for an easy breakfast or brunch, and it’s great warm or room temp. let me know what you think!

ingredients

3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2-3/4 cup of coconut sugar or brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

instructions

preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prep a 9×13 baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray, or coating with butter on the inside. whisk together the oats, coconut sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. add in the mixed berries and combine. in a separate bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla. add in the wet ingredients to the oat mixture and mix until fully combined. pour the whole mixture into the 9×13 baking dish and bake for 35 minutes, or until fully set. serve warm or room temperature. enjoy!

restaurant-style at home – bbq beef flatbread

bbq beef flatbread with pickled onions and guacamole

Picture of bbq beef flatbread with pickled onions and guacamole

i’ve been dreaming about something similar to this ever since i got a pulled pork pizza with guacamole at a restaurant we visited in tampa when i was pregnant with emmett. it was so good that i finished all the leftovers when we got home that night… this bbq beef flatbread recipe is easy in that you just throw the beef in the instant pot and let it do its work. there are a few steps, and you can always skip the pickled onions and DEFINITELY use store bought guacamole if that’s your thing. i would recommend not skipping the onions though because to me, they make it 🙂 you can check out my reels on instagram for my method! i always use this recipe for quick pickled red onions from cookie + kate, and i love them. you can use them on burgers, tacos, flatbreads, quesadillas, etc. and they always add that little extra something. the barbecue sauce recipe is a modified version of this one from south your mouth, and this is the recipe and method i use every time i make barbecue chicken. always a hit with the family. and no need to fire up the grill. you will see i have modified a few of the ingredients to get a more barbecue flavor and leave out the spice since i have littles eating it. josie refuses to eat meat, but emmett loved this beef and equally likes the barbecue chicken. hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

ingredients

2-3 lb chuck roast, cut into 4 equal pieces
half a beer – any kind, i used sapporo because that’s what i had in the fridge
your favorite homemade or storebought guacamole recipe
storebought flatbread or naan
storebought bbq sauce
shredded cheese, any kind
bbq sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon worcestershire
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
pickled onions
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

instructions

mix up the barbecue sauce by whisking together the honey, ketchup, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, garlic, worcestershire, and mustard. cut the chuck roast into four equal pieces, then heat a non stick pan to high heat, and sear the meat on all sides until brown and crusty, about 3-4 minutes per side. you could also do this on the sauté setting on your instant pot, but i find it doesn’t work as well or as fast as just doing it on the stovetop. place the meat into the instant pot along with the barbecue sauce and half the beer, just to add more cooking liquid. set on manual setting for 50 minutes. meanwhile, slice up your red onions and place them in a glass bowl or large jar. heat the water, vinegars, honey, salt, and red pepper flakes in a small pot over medium heat until everything is dissolved and the liquid is simmering. pour over the red onions and let it cool at room temp for at least 30 minutes. also if you are making your own guacamole, do this now! preheat your oven to 425. when the meat is finished, let the pressure release naturally for at least ten minutes, then you can manually release it. using two forks, shred the meat, and remove the larger chunks of fat. i usually don’t remove it beforehand because i’m lazy… put together your flatbread by spreading some of the storebought bbq sauce on your flatbread, arrange the beef and top with shredded cheese. place right on the oven rack until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the flatbread is a little crusty, about 7-10 minutes. keep your eye on it! then, remove it onto a pan using a fork and top with the pickled onions and guacamole. cut into pieces and enjoy as an app, game day snack, or meal!

weeknight skillet dinner

chicken broccoli skillet with rice-a-roni

this semi-homemade skillet is so so easy and quick for a weeknight dinner, and it’s definitely a new family favorite. chicken and broccoli are perfect add ins for the wild rice rice-a-roni mix, and it’s ramped up with white wine, garlic, heavy cream, and cheese. chicken thighs would also be really good in this, and i think would retain a little more of their moisture. instead of the white wine, you could use a white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (about 2 tablespoons), which i’ve also tried in the past and it turns out delicious. feel free to use any shredded cheese you prefer, but i tried the grated gruyere and swiss from aldi and it’s amazing! this meal is also totally toddler and baby approved, but my kids both love broccoli, it’s definitely their favorite vegetable. you could also add some mushrooms which emmett also loves but hubby isn’t a huge fan so i left them out here. hope your fam enjoys this one pan skillet meal as much as mine does!

ingredients

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large head of fresh broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces (or 2 smaller ones)
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/2-3/4 cup of shredded cheese (depending on how cheesy you like it)
1/3 cup white wine (or a couple tablespoons white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar)
1/3 cup of heavy cream (or half and half)
1 2/3 cups of chicken broth
1 box rice-a-roni wild rice mix
1 tablespoon of butter
salt & pepper
smoked paprika
onion powder
2 tablespoons of olive oil + 1 tablespoon olive oil, separated

instructions

preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and then start by cutting the chicken breast into bit sized pieces. if you’re using thighs i think you could also just leave them whole and arrange the broccoli and rice around them. cut up the broccoli into bite sized pieces and set aside in a bowl. if you are mincing your own garlic i would also prep this and set aside in a small bowl. but if you’re lazy like me and use pre-minced garlic… you don’t have to worry about this. heat an oven safe skillet to medium-high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and half the chicken pieces. sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, onion powder, and the smoked paprika. just a pinch of each. brown on all sides, then transfer to a plate and do the same with the next batch. i do it in batches so it doesn’t crowd the pan and to make sure it browns instead of steaming. lower the heat to medium and add the last tablespoon of olive oil and broccoli into the pan for about 3-4 minutes just to get a little color on it, then add the garlic and cook for about another minute. transfer this all onto the plate with the chicken. with the pan on medium-low heat, add in the wine to deglaze and scrape all the brown bits up using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. then stir in the heavy cream until everything is combined, and then the cheese. add the chicken and broccoli back into the cheese mixture and coat everything. you can turn off the heat or leave it on very low while preparing the rice. prepare the ricearoni by adding the rice, the seasoning packet, the tablespoon of butter, and 1 2/3 cup chicken broth to a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. once it has come to a boil, pour the entire thing over the broccoli and chicken mixture in the oven safe pan. use your wooden spoon or spatula to evenly distribute the rice around the pan, and then pop into the oven for 30 minutes. the rice should come out perfectly cooked, but if there were any pieces of rice on top of the chicken and broccoli, and not in the cooking liquid they may be crunchy. if you don’t like crunchy rice, just make sure it is all pushed down in the crevices in the cooking liquid. then enjoy your one pot meal! this would also be good served with a nice, crusty piece of bread 🙂