Apple Chips

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It finally feels like fall! Like everyday fall, not just a day here and there. I’m going to revel in this for a while because I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m cursing all the rain. Not happy in, not happy out, ya know?

We spent the morning at a cute little pumpkin patch farm, complete with hay rides, pony rides, tractors, slides and fresh made pumpkin spice doughnuts! I mean, sign me up! Especially the donut part 🙂

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Landon is so intrigued by everything these days, this fall and holiday season is going to be so fun exploring with him.

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He seemed to like the cows the most and it was pretty cute to hear him say “mmmm” when I asked what sound does a cow make 🙂

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Ok, apple chips. So easy! They take a little time but the hands-on time is nothing and they make such a great fall snack. I literally can not stop eating them.

Apple Chips
1 apple
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Slice apple very thin, approximately 1/8″ thick. I used a mandoline slicer and put it on the middle setting, not paper thin but 1 setting past that.
2. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, lay apple slices on parchment paper in a single layer. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon on both sides.
3. Bake apples for 2 1/2 hours, turning once halfway through baking time.

See?!?! So easy! The more baking sheets have, the more you can bake at a time. I was able to fit 1 apple on each XL baking sheet.

Enjoy!

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Frosé (Frozen Rosé)

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Happy Friday friends! What better way to celebrate the weekend than with summer’s hottest (or coolest ;)) drink trend, Frosé! Let me be clear from the start though, this Frosé recipe is a tad different than the rest. Let’s call it skinny Frosé 🙂 As I was checking out multiple recipes for this post, I noticed every single one had simple syrup or sugar in it. Sorry…not for this girl. I can barely handle alcohol these days, let alone sugary alcohol, so there was no way I was adding sugar to my Rosé. Besides, isn’t Rosé plenty sweet as it is? And, personally, I don’t want to mask the taste of my Rosé with a bunch of sugar. To sweeten this drink I used agave nectar and if it’s not sweet enough for you, you can easily add a bit more agave to it.

Keep in mind that the ingredients listed below will make 6 glasses, however, if you just want 1 or 2 glasses, you can easily use 1 tray of cubes, 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup ice and 2 Tbsp agave and save the rest of the cubes for later.

Frosé
Makes 6 servings
1 bottle (250 mL) Rosé
3 ice cube trays
3 cups sliced strawberries, divided, plus more for garnish if desired
3 cups ice, divided
6 Tbsp agave nectar, divided

1. Pour all of Rosé into the ice cube trays, distributing evenly. Should fill 3 to 3 1/2 trays. Freeze for at least 6 hours to overnight. Because of the alcohol, the cubes won’t freeze completely but should be solid enough to crack the trays and remove the cubes when ready as you would with regular ice cubes.
2. In a blender, place 12 cubes frozen Rosé (1 tray worth), 1 cup sliced strawberries, 1 cup ice & 2 Tbsp agave and blend until you have a slushy consistency. Mine was pretty thick but I also have a pretty old blender. Honey, if you are reading this…a Vitamix would be a phenomenal gift at some point 😉 If you want to thin it out, you can add 1 Tbsp of water at a time until you reach the desired consistency. However, I spooned mine out of the blender and it melted to a great consistency within a couple minutes.
3. Divide between 2 wine glasses, garnish with a whole strawberry and serve. Repeat twice with remaining ingredients if desired.

Enjoy!

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Poblano Corn Quesadillas

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We officially have a crawling baby! Which means, my life is about to get a little more hectic. As of yesterday, Landon is on the move and ever since then he does not want to be confined in any way, not in the bouncer, not in the playpen. Just wants to be able to move freely. No more setting him down on the play mat to run to the restroom, or turning my back to do dishes while he sits in one spot playing. Nope.
How do moms of toddlers get anything done? Serious question. Already today I feel like I haven’t been able to accomplish a single thing until he went down for a nap. I think this is just a phase as he gets used to his new skills but hopefully he will go back to liking the playpen and bouncer, at least for small amounts of time.

Here is a little update to your plain old cheese quesadilla, with sweet corn, onion and Poblano peppers, these take a basic dish and turn things up a notch. I made these for dinner and they were plenty filling, but if you wanted a bit more substance, you can easily add some cooked chicken as well.

Poblano Corn Quesadillas
1 tsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed
2 fresh Poblano peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 lime, halved
salt and black pepper
3 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
4 6-in tortillas

To garnish (your choice):
Salsa, Guacamole, Cilantro, Sour Cream

1. Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Poblano and onion to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and add the corn. Stir to combine, remove from heat and squeeze half a lime over the mixture.
2. Transfer to a plate and wipe the skillet clean.
3. Heat 1/2 tsp of the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add one tortilla and scatter over it a quarter of the cheese, and a quarter of the Poblano mixture. When the tortilla turns just golden brown in spots, in about 2 minutes, fold it in half, pressing it with a spatula to flatten. Transfer to a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make three more quesadillas. Serve with garnish of your choice.

* Original recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking

Red, White & Blue Pretzels

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For those of you who procrastinate…like me…a super quick treat for your 4th of July festivities! These are so adorable, no? And the hands on time is maybe 15 minutes, tops!!

Red, White & Blue Pretzels
12 pretzel rods
20 ozs white chocolate for melting
blue food coloring
red food coloring
white candy sprinkles

1. Prepare a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper and topped with a cooling rack as a place for the pretzels to dry in between each coating of chocolate.
2. Place 10 ounces of white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl (I used a small mason jar for this part because you want to be able to dip the majority of the pretzel in the chocolate) and warm on defrost or low setting, for 15 seconds at a time, stirring the chocolate during each interval, until chocolate is completely melted. Once melted, dip each pretzel in the chocolate until about 2/3 is covered. Remove and place on the cooling rack until chocolate is dry to the touch.
3. Place 5 ounces of white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and warm the same way as the last. Once melted, add blue food coloring until you reach the shade of blue you want, I added about 20 drops. I also added a few drops of red to get the blue a little darker. When ready, dip the pretzels into the blue chocolate to cover about half of the white chocolate. Before setting the pretzel back on the cooling rack, shake some white sprinkles on the end while the chocolate is still wet.
4. Once the blue chocolate has dried, melt the remaining 5 ounces of chocolate and add red food coloring, I used 25 drops. When ready, spoon the red chocolate into the bottom corner of a plastic sandwich bag, cut a TINY piece of the corner off and slowly drizzle the red chocolate across the white chocolate portion of the pretzels in a back and forth motion to form stripes. Allow the chocolate to dry.

Enjoy!

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells

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Well, today the baby got himself from lying on his tummy up into sitting position for the first time. I love each new skill he develops but this one has mama in a panic! Crawling is just around the corner which means I’ll be spending this week baby proofing!! And…it also means there will be a DIY baby gate post coming your way in the near future. So, if you’re into that sort of thing, stay tuned!

This recipe is tasty! Lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate vegetarian dishes into our diet here and there. I grew up on a VERY hearty diet, meat, potatoes and a glass of milk at every dinner and I always want flavor, flavor, flavor so sometimes the veggie dishes fall a bit short for me. This one does not! There are tons of veggies, chickpeas for protein and the sauce is full of flavor. In total, it took 40 minutes, which is totally doable for a weeknight meal. If you wanted to make it even quicker, you could easily prep the veggies and sauce ahead of time and then just cook the pasta, fill the shells and pop it in the oven at dinnertime.

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells
16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced eggplant
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup diced zucchini
3/4 cup chopped plum tomato
1/2 cup canned unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups low sodium marinara sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp torn fresh basil, divided
3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
cooking spray
4 oz shredded Italian blend cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sauté 2 minutes. Add eggplant and bell pepper, cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, tomato and chickpeas; cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1 cup marinara, 1/2 cup basil, black pepper and salt.
4. Coat a 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Spread remaining 3/4 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Spoon about 2 Tbsp vegetable mixture into each pasta shell. Arrange filled shells in dish; sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 12 minutes. Top with remaining 2 Tbsp basil.

*Original recipe from Cooking Light

Kale Summer Salad

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I have a confession…I love having friends and family over, hosting dinner parties & BBQs and cooking for lots of people. Problem…I’m not actually very good at it! I mean, the food is great and I’d like to think we create a fun environment but every single time, I spend a lot of the time in the kitchen preparing food and not mingling and hanging with our loved ones. It actually makes me really anxious too, something about people watching me cook, having a messy kitchen and not being able to just enjoy myself. The worst part is that I KNOW the steps to having a successful dinner party and I DON’T FOLLOW them!! Typically I go to the grocery store the day of and do no prep ahead of time. I also don’t pay too much attention to the steps that go into making a dish (i.e. cook time and or something with a lot of hands on time).

So, I’m turning over a new leaf 🙂 I really want to enjoy our dinner parties more so I am determined to plan ahead. Here you go, steps to a successful dinner party that the cook can enjoy as well…
1. Make recipes you are familiar with. Your best bet is to stick to recipes you have made before. This way you are familiar with the ingredients and the steps, plus, you know how it is going to taste. No wondering if your guests are secretly spitting their food into their napkins 😉
2.Choose recipes with as little hands-on time as possible or can be mostly prepped ahead of time. Whether it is meat you can marinate the day before and can just throw on the grill, a dish that can be prepped and tossed in the oven to cook or fruits and veggies cut up the day before. Anything you can do to lessen your time in the kitchen, the better. Ideally, during the party, you should shoot to only be tossing something in the oven, on the grill or on a dish.
3. Stick to your timeline. Grocery shopping 2 days before, recipe prep 1 day before, on the morning of pull together any cold dishes, dishes that will go in the oven later. Get your serving table ready and decide what dishes and utensils you will be using for each dish.
4. Accept offers of help! I am terrible at this. People ALWAYS ask, can I do anything to help? And I ALWAYS tell them NO! Why do I do this?!?! Probably because I want to seem all cool, calm and collected 🙂 Haha! Let them help! Not only will they feel good about helping you, if you are stuck in the kitchen for a bit it will give you a chance to still chat while getting things ready.

This salad is my attempt at better dinner parties. We are planning to have people over for 4th of July so I am trying out some new recipes ahead of time so I can plan the menu. This salad is ABSOLUTELY making the cut! Seriously delicious, a bunch of kale, gorgeous summer fruits, nuts and a tangy dressing to top it off.

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Kale Summer Salad
1 bunch of Kale
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup blackberries
1 peach, pitted and diced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup diced mango
3 Tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
For the dressing:
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

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1. In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper until combined. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking until emulsified.
2. In a large bowl, combine the kale and dressing. Massage the dressing into the kale until coated and place in the fridge to marinate for a few minutes. (Don’t do this too far ahead of time or the kale will get soggy, no more than 30 minutes before serving)
3. Before serving, add the diced fruit, dried cranberries and nuts to the kale and toss until evenly combined.

*Original recipe from The Balanced Berry

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Parmesan crusted salmon with lemon cream sauce

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Well, another year older. Not sure about wiser 🙂 One thing is for sure, this birthday felt different. In the past, I haven’t really wanted to celebrate my birthday, do anything special or draw any sort of attention to it. I wouldn’t say that I dislike birthdays, just haven’t wanted to make much out of it for the last 5-10 years or so. Maybe after 21, birthdays just aren’t a big deal anymore.

This year felt a bit different. I didn’t want to throw a big party or anything but I did want to acknowledge it, to celebrate with my husband, to let him dote on me and treat me to a special day. Not sure why? Because I’m a mom now and I cherish any time that I can take advantage of a “special day off”? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that I’m happier this year than I’ve ever been before?

My friend, Janine, took some 6 month photos of Landon a couple weeks ago. I was showing the pictures to my little sister and she was saying how great they were and what a pretty mama I am. I, in my self-deprecating fashion, said “aw thanks. I just look so tired and like I need to get rid of the rest of the baby weight”. She quickly shut me down, saying the only thing she can see that has changed is that my boobs are bigger 🙂 and that I look happier than she has ever seen me look. Hahaha! Yes, the boobs are definitely bigger. But she was right. I am happier than I have ever been. This little munchkin has brought so much joy to our lives, more than I ever thought possible. Especially because I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have a baby in the first place. (Not sure if I’ve mentioned that or not.) I knew we would be great parents and I knew that I did like children but we also liked our lifestyle. Being able to spend money on whatever we wanted, take a trip whenever we felt like it. You hear “having a baby will change your life” but I don’t think it’s possible to realize the extent of that until it happens. Yes, I don’t get to sleep in anymore, and no, we can’t just jump on a plane and go away without LOTS of planning. But, I can not imagine our lives without Landon in it and now that he is here, I CAN’T BELIEVE there was ever a time that I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a baby. Having a baby does change your life, but my life is better now than I ever could have imagined it.

So, happy birthday to me 🙂 and happy 7 months old to our little guy!!

Parmesan crusted salmon with lemon cream sauce
2 – 2.5 lb side of salmon
4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
For the parmesan crumb
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
cooking spray
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
pepper
For the lemon cream sauce
2 Tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
For serving (if you want presentation platter)
watercress (I used extra dill sprigs instead)
fresh dill
lemon wedges

1. Remove salmon from fridge and bring to room temperature (if salmon is fridge cold when putting in the oven, add 3 minutes to cook time). Preheat oven to 390°F.
2. Spread panko breadcrumbs on a baking sheet, spray generously with cooking spray then bake 3-5 minutes until light golden brown. Scrap into a medium bowl immediately, add butter and stir, then add remaining Parmesan crumb ingredients.
3. Line the same pan with foil, place salmon on foil-lined pan. Spread Dijon on salmon using a butter knife, just thin coating – like buttering toast. Sprinkle parmesan crumb all over.
4. Bake for 20 minutes until just cooked and flaky (may need to adjust based on oven and size of salmon filet).
5. While salmon cooks, make lemon cream sauce (see below).
5. Remove salmon from oven, loosen from skin, which should be stuck to foil, using a spatula or butter knife.
6. Spread watercress onto serving platter. Use foil to lift salmon onto serving platter, then slide out the foil from under it by slightly lifting salmon with a spatula one section at a time and pulling foil away, tearing the foil if necessary. Serve with lemon cream sauce and lemon wedges on the side.

Lemon cream sauce
1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium high heat. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Leave to boil rapidly for 5 minutes or until reduced by 3/4 or so.
2. Turn heat down to medium. Add cream, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir, then add lemon juice and mustard. Stir again. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon to taste. Be generous with the salt, remember the salmon is not marinated, the only salt is in the topping.
3. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, it will thicken as it cools. It can be served warm or at room temperature.

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas

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I feel like I’m a bit obsessed with sheet pan cooking these days. Anything I can throw on one pan, toss in the oven and POOF! dinner is done!?!? Count me in!

Store this one under SUPER fast and easy weeknight meals that taste delicious!! I mean, it’s pretty hard to mess up tacos and fajitas, right? But this is ready in less than 20 minutes and most recipes like that have no flavor, but this…SO not the case…tons of flavor from the spices and fresh squeezed lime juice. Plus, it’s Cinco de Mayo and I know you haven’t seen enough Mexican food and drink in your feed yet today 🙂

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas
1 1/2 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined – you can remove tails, I left mine on for the photo and removed before serving 🙂
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thin
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
several turns of fresh ground pepper
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
lime
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
tortillas, warmed – once I take the shrimp out of the oven, I toss the tortillas in so they get a little char from the broiler. Keep an eye on them though because they will burn quickly. Only need about 1 minute.

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine onion, bell pepper, shrimp, olive oil, salt, pepper & spices. Toss to combine.
3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread shrimp mixture on baking sheet in a single layer.
4. Cook for 8 minutes. Then turn the oven to broil and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through.
5. Squeeze juice from lime over fajita mixture and top with fresh cilantro. Serve in warm tortillas with your choice of topping. We like ours with sour cream.

Enjoy! 🙂

Loaded Nachos

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I was really feeling that 70°F weather yesterday! And now…back to rain. I can’t wait for more consistently sunny weather. I have so many projects I want to do outside, particularly, finally finishing the back deck. However, that requires paint, so I need to wait for a stretch of at least a few dry days.

On the other hand, the munchkin is officially sitting up…which means crawling is probably not far behind…which means baby proofing. I have plans to DIY some pretty cute baby gates at the 2 sets of stairs in the house as well as the stairs on the deck so that project may need to come first. The list of projects really never gets any smaller. Each time I finish 1 thing, I add 2 more to the list.

So, let’s talk about something less stressful…like these loaded nachos! We have always made sheet pan nachos in this family, but never like this. They usually consisted of some ground chicken, taco seasoning, shredded cheese and salsa and sour cream for dipping. Pretty basic. I decided to make nachos on Superbowl Sunday and this was the result. And let me tell you, we will NOT be going back to the basic version, EVER. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these rivaled ANY restaurant nachos I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot…hello…massive plate of nachos at Margaritaville in Vegas.

Loaded Nachos
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package taco seasoning
12 ozs tortilla chips
1 15oz can refried black beans
1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno, diced
2 Tbsp sour cream plus 2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and garlic, and cook until beef has browned, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning. Drain excess fat.
3. While ground beef is cooking, heat refried beans in a saucepan over medium heat until warm throughout, about 5 minutes.
4. Place tortilla chips in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Top with half of the cheeses. Next layer ground beef, black beans, corn and remaining cheese.
5. Place into oven and bake until heated through and the cheese melts, about 5-6 minutes.
6. While nachos cook, mix sour cream and water in a small bowl. You want to just thin out the sour cream so it is easy to drizzle.
7. Remove nachos from oven, top with tomato, onion, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro.

Enjoy!

Peppercorn-Crusted Lamb Chops w/ Spicy Fig Jam

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I had intentions of posting this much earlier in the week for your Easter dinner ideas. Now, here it is, Friday afternoon, and I’m just getting around to it. SMH. I’m just going to stop planning blog posts by the calendar. I can’t ever seem to stick to it.

Anyway, if you are still deciding what to make for Easter dinner, then yay! I’m not too late. To be honest, these lamb chops are SO simple, you could make them any night or for any occasion. I feel like lamb chops are one of those things that are super intimidating to most people but you really shouldn’t be afraid of them. When I first started to make lamb chops, my biggest mistake was over-cooking them. Lamb should usually be served at medium-rare and mostly pink in the center.

Peppercorn-Crusted Lamb Chops w/ Spicy Fig Jam
1 cup fig jam
4 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 racks of lamb, fully trimmed and bones frenched
4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup coarsely ground peppercorn mélange (mix of pink, white, black and green peppercorns)

1. To make the spicy fig jam sauce, mix the jam, 2 Tbsp water, and Sriracha together in a small saucepan. Warm the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the butter to the sauce and stir until incorporated. Set aside while cooking the chops.
2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F. Brush 1 Tbsp of the oil over the lamb racks. Season with the salt. Spread the peppercorns on a cutting board, press the top and sides of each rack into the peppercorns to coat. Set aside.
3. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a very large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add one lamb rack, top side down, and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Repeat with the second rack. Interlace the lamb racks, bones facing up, and return to skillet. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a rack and not touching bone registers 130°F, about 20 minutes, for medium-rare.
4. Let the racks stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Cut between the bones into individual chops. Transfer 4 chops to each dinner plate and add a large spoonful of sauce. Serve immediately.

Enjoy everyone! And have a fantastic Easter weekend filled with fun, food, friends & family!