Guess where I’m headed tomorrow? Vegas! It’s time for Joel’s annual work “retreat” where they work for a couple days then all the significant others come and have a fun filled 3 day weekend. I’m kind of excited and kind of freaking out. This is the first time I am leaving Hannah and I know she will be fine but a mama never stops worrying. She’s definitely a mama’s girl and sometimes she wants me and only me. Haha, good luck mom and dad. Noah was over a year old the first time we left him for a weekend getaway and I thought I was going to vomit the whole 2 hour drive. Breathe Meghan, everything is going to be ok.
Are there any places we need to eat while in Vegas? The only place we have planned is the brunch buffet at the Paris Hotel. And I am totally living it up that meal. I’m talking crepes, bear claws, eggs, waffles. It’s all happening. I fully expect to feel sick since I’ve been eating clean since Lent started but I’m hoping it will be worth it.
Speaking of clean eating…I’ve been struggling with side dishes to our meals. It’s usually just a salad or some kind of steamed vegetable. But when we were at the grocery store the other day I spotted heirloom cauliflower in purple, orange and lime green. I showed Noah and asked him if we should try some and he got very excited and said we should get the orange one. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it (I usually roast it), but it was totally being purchased after seeing how excited he was over a vegetable.
After thinking a bit, I decided to try my hand at smashed cauliflower. A lot of the recipes I found added cream cheese which sounds amazing but just wasn’t going to happen. Since there wasn’t much I could add to gain that creamy texture, I decided to add lots of flavor instead. Cooking the cauliflower in chicken stock and adding a whole head of roasted garlic definitely fit the bill. It’s a light, flavorful side dish that’s just as fun to eat as it is to look at.
Roasted Garlic Smashed Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower (I used an heirloom orange cauliflower), cut into florets
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 head roasted garlic
Salt and pepper
Place cauliflower and chicken stock in a pan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender (most of the stock will be gone). Mash cauliflower in pot, if you have a lot of stock left, drain some out. Add in parmesan cheese and roasted garlic and continue to mash. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Thanks to Our Best Bites, I have found the perfect way to cook brown rice. Seriously, I will never cook it another way. It was everything I never knew brown rice could be. It even got the stamp of approval from Joel so that’s saying something.
The rice came out light and fluffy with an amazing texture. I always seem to undercook brown rice and it ends up crunchy and unappetizing. But not anymore. After making the rice, I added lime zest and cilantro to make cilantro lime rice so that’s what the green specks are in the photo. I forgot to snap pictures beforehand.
So so so good. I plan on doing this once a week to have brown rice for lunch all week along with some grilled chicken and veggies. Turns out this whole clean eating thing ain’t so bad.
The Perfect Brown Rice
recipe from Our Best Bites
1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/3 cups water (you could also use chicken stock for a bit more flavor)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place dry brown rice in an 8×8 pan. Bring water, butter or oil and salt to a boil. Remove as soon as it starts boiling and pour it over the rice. Cover tightly with several layers of foil. Bake for about 1 hour.
2. Remove from oven and carefully remove the foil. Fluff the rice with a fork then cover with a kitchen towel for 5 minutes. This helps collect the steam rather than it collecting on the foil then falling into the rice when you remove it, making it soggy.
On our quest for healthier eating, I have been looking for recipes that are lighter but still have enough heft to fill us up and keep the boys happy. I personally love steamed broccoli and would eat it everyday but Joel thinks it tastes like dirt. He is totally for it though when slathered with cheese.
Speaking of cheese and healthy, I don’t know about you but I have never been and never will be down with low fat/fat free cheese. It’s just not right. I would rather have no cheese at all. I’m fine with other light products like sour cream, milk, mayo, even cream cheese or ricotta but cheddar…no way, won’t do it.
I’ve had my eye on these cheesy broccoli bites for quite awhile but just never got around to making them until now. And now I’m kicking myself for taking so long to try them. They are a fun, healthy and delicious way to eat your veggies. The cheese melts into gooey goodness and the outside gets crispy.
And they got the approval of both boys. I’m thinking of trying them with cauliflower next time. I have a feeling these will be gracing our table very often.
Cheesy Broccoli Bites
recipe adapted from Stacey Snacks
8 oz. fresh broccoli, lightly steamed and chopped
1/2 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg white
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients and form patties, 1/4 cup each. Place on parchment.
2. Bake for 12 minutes, flip then bake another 12 minutes.
Looking for some last minute additions or recipes for the big day? Here are some yummy breakfast, dessert and side dish recipes that would be perfect for Thanksgiving. I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with family and friends. And who is going out Black Friday shopping? Some new outlets just opened last week about a half hour from our house so that’s what we are doing…wish us luck. Everyone I know that has gone so far has said it was nuts.
Perfect for starting off the day right, Pumpkin Granola. It’s light and healthy and won’t fill you up too much.
Pumpkin Pie Cashews would be the perfect thing to snack on throughout the day.
Share what you are thankful for with these Gratitude Rolls.
These slow cooker mashed potatoes free up that precious stovetop space and still create a creamy, decadent side to that juicy turkey.
Maple Glazed Carrots are a super simple yet delicious addition.
Creamy Cheesy Potatoes are so easy and amazingly delicious!
Brined and Roasted Turkey results with the most juicy and succulent bird ever.
Mini Pecan Pies always grace our Thanksgiving table. They are the perfect little bite that leaves a little room for a second dessert!
Apple Streusel Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze is rustic but delicious.
Looking for a rich, dense way to end Thanksgiving? Boom, French Silk Pie.
Happy Labor Day everyone! It has been unbearably hot around here lately. Like heat indexes of 105 degrees and up hot. And the pools are closed so that means I have pretty much locked Noah and myself in the house. It literally feels like stepping into a sauna when you go outside. Luckily, we are supposed to get a bit of a break for the next couple of days. I hope that you all are keeping cool during your holiday celebrations.
I whipped up this Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad for Noah’s birthday but it would be just perfect for the last hurrahs of summer. This salad is packed with hardboiled eggs and relish all swimming in a creamy dressing to make a deviled egg-esque pasta that is just delish.
I changed the recipe a bit by reducing the mayonnaise (and using reduced fat) and upping the relish. It was honestly still incredibly creamy (even leftover the next few days) with a cup less mayo and you all know I love pickles so extra relish shouldn’t surprise you.
I love having different pasta and macaroni salad recipes on hand so that we don’t get bored and we can mix things up all summer. This is definitely a new favorite that has been added to my repertoire.
Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad
recipe adapted from Cassie Craves
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
2 cups Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. white vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2-1 cup dill pickle relish (depending on how pickle-y you like it)
1.Mix together the mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper.
2. Gently fold pasta, eggs and relish into the sauce. Cover and refrigerate until serving (it’s best the next day). Sprinkle with paprika right before serving.
The zucchini in my garden just won’t quit. It’s nice to have homegrown veggies but we are kind of getting tired of it around here. Remind me next year not to plant so many of the darn things. I never imagined 3 plants would yield so many zucchini, I definitely did not have this much success last year in Minnesota. The plants only grew to about 1/4 the size as they did this year and I only got a couple zucchini. Now I know that they really thrive in Nebraska.
So, as you can imagine I still have a few more zucchini recipes to share with you all. These cheesy zucchini pancakes are a simple, straightforward and easy side dish.
I love how crispy they get on the outside and that they keep their texture within. They were perfect to enjoy alongside some bbq chicken off the grill.
Cheesy Zucchini Pancakes
recipe from Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy
1 pound zucchini, about 3 cups shredded
1 medium onion
1 cup panko crumbs (can also use homemade or dried, unseasoned bread crumbs)
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 or 2 splashes hot sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
olive oil for frying
1. In a food processor or with a box grater, grate zucchini and onion. Place in a kitchen towel and squeeze tightly to remove all excess moisture.
2. Dump zucchini/onion into a large mixing bowl and stir in panko, cheese, eggs, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Combine well. If the mixture appears dry, add a bit more egg and if it’s wet, add more panko.
3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to barely cover the bottom of the skillet. Once hot, drop zucchini mixture by 1/4 cup into the skillet. Cook until browned and crispy, 2-3 minutes then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until golden. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.
First I want to start off by saying thank you to each and every person, past and present, that has served this country and especially those that have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom. I’ve mentioned before that my dad served in the Air Force for 20 years and I will be forever grateful for that choice that my parents made. I had the privilege to live in some amazing places and meet and become friends with people from all over the world. Through those experiences, I learned to be accepting of all people, to be adaptable, to know that life is much bigger than just me so the world shouldn’t revolve around just me and to always respect men and women in uniform.
I know there is so much I am missing but at the end of the day all I’m trying to say is that my dad’s service and sacrifice sculpted me into a better person than I could ever have been without it. So I hope on Memorial Day (and every day), you can all remember everyone that serves or has served and be thankful for all they do for us. It’s a huge undertaking and deserves the utmost respect.
Here is a list of some great sides, main dishes and desserts that would be perfect for your Memorial Day celebration. Enjoy!
Cucumber Tomato Salad
Smoked Corn on the Cobb
Juicy Lucy’s (Cheese Stuffed Burgers)
Coca-Cola BBQ Chicken Skewers
Cheesecake Filled Strawberries
Patriotic Funfetti Whoopie Pies
Red, White and Blue Tie-Dyed Cupcakes
I am a huge fan of baked potatoes but now that spring has finally arrived (or so it seems) they just aren’t something I cook. I hate heating up the oven and the house once the warm weather hits and I avoid it at all cost. So what do I do when the craving strikes? Make up this loaded baked potato salad! It provides all the delicious taste of a loaded baked potato without having to heat up the oven. Plus, it’s chilled and refreshing which helps beat the heat.
There really isn’t anything not to like about this potato salad. Cheese, bacon and ranch are always a winning combination! This would be a great side dish to bring to a summer bbq or just to whip up on a weeknight with a yummy grilled steak.
Loaded Baked Potato Salad
recipe slightly adapted from Key Ingredient
4 large russet or Yukon gold potatoes
1/4 cup light mayo
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. dry ranch seasoning
8 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste
1. In a small bowl, mix together the mayo and sour cream. After thoroughly combined, stir in cheese, ranch seasoning, salt and pepper.
2. Chop potatoes into bite size chunks (you can peel them if you want, I was lazy and didn’t). Boil potatoes for 10-20 minutes, until tender but not falling apart. Drain potatoes and allow to cool a bit.
3. Mix potatoes and 3/4 of the bacon into sour cream mixture. Top with remaining bacon and chill until ready to serve.
So, I know I have already shared a couple cucumber salad recipes with you all (here and here) but Noah and I are big cucumber fans and we go through quite a few every week. Because of this, we are always looking for new ways to eat them and this is our current favorite. My mom whipped this up one night when we were over for dinner and it was amazing and so simple.
And the ingredients are ones I almost always have on hand. I don’t think I have to tell you how much I love those kinds of recipes!
The recipe recommends making this two hours before you are going to serve it but it is soo much better the next day so if you have the time, mix it up the night before so that it has time to marinate and soak up the delicious dressing.
This is going to be my official summer side dish. Delish!
Cucumber Tomato Salad
3 English cucumbers, washed and thinly sliced
3 medium tomatoes, washed and diced into bite size chunks
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup vinegar (I used plain ‘ole white but red wine vinegar would be really tasty too)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup oil (veggie or canola)
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. course ground pepper
Place cucumbers, tomatoes and onions in a medium sized bowl. Add vinegar, sugar, water, oil, salt and pepper to a mason jar or some container with a tight seal. Shake until thoroughly combined. Pour over veggies and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (preferably overnight) before serving.
So for the life of me, I hadn’t been able to make good refried beans. Every attempt had come out bland, thick and pastey…definitely not what you want in refried beans. But, no worries because I finally found the one! Sometimes it takes a lot of time and many epic fails to find the recipe that will wow you. And it was definitely worth the wait.
The onion, bouillon and butter lended so much flavor to the beans and really put them over the top for me. Plus, the fact that they are made in the crock pot meant I could throw in all the ingredients and check on them occasionally rather than having to keep a close eye on them on the stovetop like I did in the past.
Ever since making them I have been trying to think up reasons to make them. I even bought a bag of dried pinto beans as big as your head so I don’t have to worry about not having beans when the craving strikes. They were incredible on their own, topped with a little cheese as well as smeared on a tostada with some delish Cafe Rio Chicken. I will be attempting this recipe with black beans too. I’ll let you know how they turn out!
Crock Pot Refried Beans
recipe from Chef in Training
Approximately 3 cups dried pinto beans, rinsed*
5 chicken bouillon cubes
1 Tbsp. garlic salt
1/2 medium sweet onion (peel off skin but do not chop)
1/2 cup butter
1. Place beans in crock pot then fill it nearly to the top with water. Add in bouillon cubes, garlic salt and onion half. Cook on high until beans are soft (took 5-6 hours for me). Stir occasionally during cooking process. You may have to add more water as beans absorb water.
2. Strain beans or pour off juice, saving the juice in a separate bowl and removing the onion. Add butter and a small amount of juice that beans cooked in. Use a hand blender to mash beans. Add juice and blend to obtain desired consistency. You want to leave beans a little runny as they will set up quite fast.
*This is assuming you are using a 5 qt. crock pot. If you are using a smaller one, fill it up about 2 inches with dried pinto beans.