Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Nutella Cookie Bars with Sea Salt


Chocolate Chocolate Chip Nutella Cookie Bars with Sea Salt

I got this recipe from Two Peas in a Pod and then made a couple changes to suit my taste. These were really yummy.

-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
-3/4 cup processed cocoa
-1 cup butter, at room temperature
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup light brown sugar
-2 eggs
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1 cup chocolate chips
-1/2 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, sea salt, and cocoa. Set aside. With a mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla extract and mix until combined. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Divide the dough in half. Press half of the dough into the prepared pan. Spread the Nutella over the dough. Top the Nutella evenly with the remaining cookie dough. It is ok if some of the Nutella peaks out, but try to cover it as much as possible. Sprinkle the cookie bars with sea salt. Bake cookies for 30 minutes, or until cookie bars are set around the edges, but still a little soft in the center. Don't overbake. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack. Cut into squares and serve.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lemon Chicken Soup with Spinach


Lemon Chicken Soup with Spinach

This is a nice twist on the classic chicken noodle soup. The lemon brightens the flavors and adds an unexpected touch. I based this soup on the classic Greek lemon chicken soup, but then added spinach for extra nutrition. Any rice or pasta would work in this soup, but adjust your cooking times based on what you use (add a cup or two of extra water if you use brown rice). You could use white beans instead of the chicken and veggie broth in  place of the chicken broth for a vegan version of this soup. You could use a rotisserie chicken for this soup, or any leftover chicken that you have on hand. This recipe makes a large pot of soup,

-2 Tbsp olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-3 carrots, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-8 cups chicken broth
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-2 tsp oregano
-1 tsp thyme
-1 tsp rosemary
-2 cups desired pasta or rice (I used whole wheat shells)
-3 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
-1/2 lb spinach, torn into bite sized pieces
-juice of 2 lemons

Heat olive oil in a soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and carrots, stirring and sauteing until softened (5-10 minutes). Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add broth, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Bring soup to a boil. Add pasta or rice, reduce heat to medium and simmer according to package directions. Add chicken and spinach., cook 5 additional minutes, stirring intermittently. Stir in lemon juice and serve.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Toasted Brie and Nutella Croissants with Red Wine Cherry Compote


Toasted Brie and Nutella Croissants with Red Wine Cherry Compote

This my knock off of a dessert at a local restaurant. One of our friends requested that I attempt this dish for his birthday. This was such a fun, delicious, sophisticated, unexpected dessert. This cherry sauce would also be delicious served alongside a pork tenderloin.

Croissants

-croissants
-nutella
-brie

Split the croissants in half; spread the bottom with nutella, then cover with sliced brie. Place the top on the croissant and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes until warm and crispy. Serve croissant with the cherry compote and dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Red Wine Cherry Compote

-1/2 cup sugar
-1 1/4 cups red wine
-1 lb fresh or frozen cherries, stemmed and pitted
-2 Tbsp cornstarch, mixed with 2 Tbsp water
-1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Bring the red wine and sugar to a boil in a medium pan, stirring to mix. Add the cherries; reduce heat to low, and simmer 5-10 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly, cook until thickened. Remove sauce from heat, allow to cool and serve at room temperature.

Mexican Street Corn Salad


Mexican Street Corn Salad

This is such a yummy, summery side dish. You get all the flavors of Mexican street corn, but none of the gunk stuck in your teeth. This is my go to when I have leftover corn on the cob after dinner one night.

-6 ears of corn; roasted, grilled or sauteed until browned and then cut off the cob
-3 Tbsp mayo
-zest and juice of 1 lime
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp chili powder
-1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
-3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
-(optional) 1/2 cup queso fresco, cotija or parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl whisk together mayo, lime zest and juice, salt, chili powder and cayenne. Stir in cilantro and cheese (if using). Serve immediately

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Happy 3rd Birthday Elisha!!!!



Happy Birthday Elisha!

This has been a big year for you, with lots of changes and firsts! This year you got potty trained. You moved from sleeping in a crib to sleeping in a big boy bed, on the bottom bunk, below Noah. You had your first trip to the ER after you fell down our front steps. You got 7 stitches in your chin and you were so brave and tough and didn't cry or whine at all while they put the stitches in, or a week later when the doctor took the stitches out. You went to the beach for the first time ever and LOVED playing in the sand. This year your oldest brother went to school and so you got more personalized time with me than ever before. And then your baby brother was born and you became a big brother yourself. You wanted to go to school too so when we started going to MOPS monthly I told you it was your school and you were so proud to go to "school" and carry your own bag in. We moved across the city this year into a new house and neighborhood. You have handled all of these changes so well.


This year you have developed such a sweet bond with your daddy. I love to see you two together. You two are special buddies and you probably prefer him to me most of the time.


Noah is your best friend. You two play together most of the time we are home, or out at parks. You two make up your own games (like "beating the people"-whatever that is) and imaginary worlds and have so much fun. Like most brothers you two bicker a lot also, but you two are usually pretty quick to apologize, forgive and move on. Each morning when Noah wakes up and comes out of your room (you tend to get up 30-60 minutes earlier than him) you cheer his name so happily and loudly. You love to see him and have him around. You do the same thing when he comes home from school.


You love Zeke so much. You love to give him hugs and kisses. You love to make him laugh. You are so excited to see him each morning and want to hold him. Whenever I burp him after nursing you want to help and you slap him on the back.


As of late, it seems that hitting is becoming your love language. You like to wrestle and be rough. You are brave and not intimidated by bigger kids. You often try to tackle, push or play rough with others. You learned this from all of the time you spend wrestling with your daddy and Noah, but now we need to solidify in you that there is a time and place for wrestling and not everyone likes to play like that.



Your daddy often says that you have the perfect personality because you are so laid back and easy going but not a pushover and you have no problem standing up for yourself. You are rough and tough yet still sensitive.


You love to help. You like carrying groceries in from the car. When you make a spill on your own initiative you will find a towel or napkin and clean it up. You like to help me cook, do laundry or help with projects I am working on. You are a doer.


I'd say that touch and time with are your love languages. Touch in that you like contact with others, whether it's rough housing or snuggling, touch seems to fill you. Your daddy and I laugh at how obvious it is the words of affirmation is not your love language. We tell you we love you and tell you great things we see in you and none of this seems to phase you very much.


You seem to be on the introverted side. You are happy to play by yourself for long periods of time, not needing or wanting constant interaction with others. Since your older brother is so extremely extroverted you get very little time to yourself though. He is constantly engaging you in some type of activity with him.


You are a pretty good eater. You eat almost all fruits and many veggies including broccoli, carrots, cucumbers and corn on the cob. You like chicken, cheese, turkey burgers and most snack foods. Your favorite dinners are mac and cheese, pizza and chicken nuggets.


Your favorite thing to do is probably to dig in the dirt with your diggers. You also love to go watch all the machines at work at "struction" sites. You like to color and do playdoh. You like to go for walks and play on playgrounds. You love to play with bubbles and sidewalk chalk. You like to do puzzles, play hide and go seek, read books and feed the ducks. Your favorite shows to watch are Bubble Guppies, Julius Jr. and Daniel Tiger.

You know the alphabet, colors, shapes and the names of all big trucks or construction equipment. You talk so well and formulate such good sentences. You still have a bit of a toddler lisp saying certain words and I love the way you say "dee-wish-ous" (delicious) and "gabaw" (grandma).


You were named after two prophets, Elisha and Samuel. We believe that you have a deep gift of wisdom. I believe that you are going to be a peace keeper. You are strong and steady and not easily swayed by emotions and I believe that you will bring that sense of steadiness everywhere you go. You bring so much joy and fun to our family and we all love you so very much!




Monday, May 23, 2016

Dinner Done by 9 am: The What


This is the third post in my Dinner Done by 9 am series. Click here to read the first post on The Why, or here to read the second post on The How regarding Dinner Done by 9 am.

Now that we've covered the reasons why I cook dinner by 9 am and the techniques that help me do this we'll cover some of my favorite make-ahead dinners and breakdown what steps I do in the morning and what I do just prior to meal time. (Click the link on the name of each dish to see the recipe.)

Fish Tacos with Cayenne Lime Sour Cream Sauce with Cilantro Lime Slaw and Refried Black Beans
-In the morning I make the sour cream sauce, shred the cabbage and chop the cilantro for the toppings, make the slaw, make the refried beans, refrigerate everything until the evening.
-Just before serving I season and cook the fish, re-heat the beans, set out the slaw, tortillas, sour cream sauce and all the toppings just before eating.

White Chicken Chili with cornbread
-In the morning I completely make the chili and cornbread, refrigerating the chili and leaving the cornbread at room temperature.
-Just before serving I reheat the chili (and cornbread, if desired) and set out any toppings.

Lasagna
-In the morning I fully assemble the lasagna without baking and then refrigerate.
-Just before serving I bake the lasagna as directed and serve with roasted veggies or a salad.

Build your own taco/ burrito/ taco salad bar with Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken, Cuban Black Beans, Homemade Salsa and Guacamole (easily serves people who are gluten free, vegan, or picky since everyone gets to assemble their own)
-In the morning I cook the beans, put the chicken in the slow cooker and make the salsa.
-Just before serving I shred the chicken, re-heat the beans, cook rice (if using), set out all the toppings and make the guacamole. (To make the guacamole I simply stir a few Tbsp of the salsa with 2-4 diced avocados adding a little salt and hot sauce if needed).

Curried Chicken Pasta Salad
-In the morning I completely assemble the pasta salad and refrigerate. Then I simply take this out of the fridge when it's time to serve.

Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki, Hummus and Tabouleh
-In the morning I marinate the chicken, make the tzatziki, chop whatever toppings I'm using, make the hummus, make the tabouleh and refrigerate everything.
-Just before serving I take everything out of the fridge and set it up and cook the chicken.

Korean Beef (gluten free)
-In the morning I completely make the beef in the morning, chop the green onions for topping and then refrigerate both.
-Just before serving I re-heat the beef, set out the onions and sriracha for topping and cook some rice.

Picadillo (gluten free)
-In the morning I completely make the picadillo, chop parsley or cilantro for garnish and refrigerate.
-Just before serving I re-heat the picadillo, set out the toppings and cook the rice.

Bolognese Sauce over pasta
-In the morning I completely make the sauce and refrigerate.
-Just before serving I reheat the sauce, cook the pasta and roast some veggies to serve with it.

Slow Cooker Indian Curry (gluten free, vegan)
-In the morning I throw all of the ingredients except the spinach in the slow cooker.
-Just before serving I stir in the spinach and cook rice to serve the curry over.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille (gluten free, vegan)
-In the morning I get everything set up in the slow cooker.
-Just before serving I set out parmesan cheese for topping and cook the pasta.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dinner Done by 9 am: The How


This is the second post in my Dinner Done by 9 am series. To see the first post on the reasons why I cook dinner by 9 am click here.

I've already covered why I try to cook dinner by 9 am each day. In this post I'll cover more details on how I do this.

Not all dinners lend themselves well to being cooked in advance. Casseroles, soups, stews and salads tend to be dishes that can easily be prepared in advance without compromising quality. Things like seafood, seared/ grilled meats that are served warm and pasta are not usually reheated with as good of quality the second go around, but there is still a lot that can be done in advance when preparing dinners including these components.

The list below is a good breakdown of what cooking activities I do in the morning and what I save for the hour prior to meal time.

Things I do in advance;
-assemble salads, but don't dress them
-make salad dressing
-make all sauces (dipping sauce, sauce bases for pasta dishes...)
-marinate, wrap, stuff or chop meat
-wash and chop herbs and vegetables
-pre-cook vegetables (when applicable)
-fully assemble any casseroles (mac and cheese, lasagna, green bean casserole, breakfast casserole...)up to the point of baking, refrigerate and then bake immediately prior to serving
-fully cook all soups, chilis, stews and curries, refrigerate and then heat back up prior to serving
-make any dough or baked goods that are necessary
-throw everything in the slow cooker when using it
-fully prepare any cold salads/ pasta salad (like chicken salad, pasta salad, curried chicken pasta salad, sesame noodles..,)

Things I do directly before eating;
-reheat any soups, stews, curries etc.
-add fresh herbs into soups or stews
-dress salad
-cook any seared/ grilled/ roasted meats
-bake any casseroles
-roast veggies for side dishes
-cook and add pasta to soups or sauced pasta dishes
-cook rice when using

Stay tuned next Monday for the next post in this series with links to many of my favorite make-ahead dinners and tips on what I serve them with, what I do in advance, and what I save for the last minute. Don't forget to follow me on social media or subscribe to my blog to make sure you don't miss the next post.