I eat the same thing (or a very close approximation) for breakfast, morning snack, and afternoon snack 5 times a week. It doesn’t bother me at all. I never get bored. But dinner? For some reason, I can’t make the same dinners frequently or have any sort of “rotation.” It’s a mixture of boredom and wanting to try so many things. Cookbooks, bookmarks, Pinterest, and Pocket things. Still, we eat a lot of chicken. Chicken breast will never be our favorite thing (to be sure, Zachary has a “favorite proteins” list he updates very frequently, but chicken has never topped the list), but it’s healthy, it’s fast, and it’s highly adaptable. So it gets made a lot. In many different forms.

This is a dish we’ve made a couple of times now and really enjoyed. It’s a lighter version of Florentine, using a mere 2 tablespoons of cream vs. a cup or so. But the sauce is still flavorful and luxurious, thanks to being reduced down, and a dose of lemon zest and juice. The chicken is perfectly cooked, the spinach done but not overdone.

I feel like pasta is the go-to accompaniment for chicken Florentine, but we had this with baked brown rice, which I thought was perfect. Plus, with the vegetables in the rice and the spinach in the chicken, there was no need to make a third dish/veggie side. Score!

You’re supposed to put the chicken into a baking dish, but I saw no need to get something else dirty, so I just continued to use the skillet I’d been using for the rest of the dish.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to replace the water in the dish with more broth, but don’t. The broth/water mixture reduces for a while, so it will get plenty salty on its own and doesn’t need that extra oomph of salt/flavor that I feel like a lot of ATK recipes could benefit from (and often take the initiative to change myself). I used a low-sodium broth (also recommended) and didn’t need to add any salt to the finished sauce.

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It’s crazy how different my boys are from each other. As babies, Zachary was pretty fussy while Ian was extremely chill. As young toddlers, Zachary liked to read and Ian liked to climb. At 2, when you told Zachary not to do something, he didn’t do that thing (amazingly). At 2, when you tell Ian not to do something, he looks you in the eye, gets a huge grin on his face and does precisely that thing.

Zachary liked to help in the kitchen at an early age, but not Ian. Ian wanted to SEE what was going on (one similarity they have always shared is a love of food), but he wanted to do that by way of being held. He had zero interest in getting up on a stool or even just sitting down and watching. He was all about, you know, inconveniencing people. Or doing a lot of screaming.

But not long ago, Ian was amazingly cooperative when the three of us tried to make a quickbread. I gave it a whirl again with these muffins, and he stood on a stool and loved dumping ingredients in and stirring. And I have to tell you that, even though the cleanup might be a little more difficult, having both your hands free and a kid who isn’t mad throwing himself on the floor or hugging your knees is quite helpful when baking. I’m excited that we seem to  have turned the corner in this regard because I do really like cooking/baking with the kids.

As for the bad news, Ian was not crazy about these muffins. I am 99.9% sure that it was the texture of the strawberries because he was nibbling around them. Admittedly I am not huge on cooked strawberries either, unless they are chilled (think cheesecake), so while I did enjoy these muffins (and Zachary REALLY enjoyed them), I actually preferred them straight from the fridge.

These muffins have minimal sugar (especially if you don’t sprinkle the tops, which we didn’t) and are actually pretty healthy. We used whole wheat flour, lowfat milk, and I added some Greek yogurt to make these even more moist. I recommend refrigerating the leftovers to keep the strawberry moisture from making these too soggy/sticky.

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I hope you don’t mind my eking out the last few not-terribly-springy recipes here. I try to post at least relatively seasonal dishes, but sometimes life (or attempting to be handy at home when you’re not, or NHL playoffs, or laziness) get in the way. That said, my kids are meatball and meatloaf-obsessed, so they are more than happy to eat these year-round, and I can’t say I would argue with them.

I mentioned a while back that I’d never made a true meatloaf until fairly recently, but before that I used to make mini meatloaves pretty frequently. It actually started with a Kraft recipe that used Stovetop Stuffing in the meatloaves and then evolved from there. I’d later disguise meatballs as meatloaves (loaf shaped, but with a marinara glaze and stuffed with mozzarella), which allowed me to basically swap out pasta for mashed potatoes. I’ve had these mini meatloaves on my to-make list since I got Deb’s book but, like I said, life.

This is a pretty standard meatloaf/meatball recipe with just enough subtleties to make it a little different. The smoked paprika is a great addition and what is essentially a “pestata” of minced carrots/onion/celery add flavor and moistness to the meatballs. The glaze is perhaps not as sweet as traditional glazes (I actually added a bit more honey and less Dijon, because I don’t like Dijon in large doses)  but pairs well with the meat and is so easy to make. It can be hard to make moist meatballs using just beef (and I am here to admit I used pretty lean beef, on top of it) but these are it.

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I have a new crush, and her name is Lidia Bastianich.

I’ve known about Lidia for a while. I’ve made a bunch of her recipes, though I’ve somehow only managed to blog one. They’re always great. Always. You look at the ingredient list and nothing jumps out at you and says, “this super terrific and rarely-used ingredient will make your meal shine!” Instead, it’s just simple, normal ingredients. And she somehow manages to make them so harmonious and delightful.

We’ve had this meal at least 3 or 4 times. Every time, I ask myself why I’m making it on a Saturday because it’s so quick and easy (those types of meals tend to be reserved for weeknights). It just…I don’t know, seems like a weekend meal? The last time I made this (the photographs in this post), I didn’t even bother pounding and rolling chicken breasts. Tom had accidentally bought tenderloins, so I basically just sandwiched the breadcrumb filling between two, which made the meal even quicker, albeit not as pretty. There is no searing of the chicken before baking it, which is a good thing because me + stuffed/rolled chicken + browning =  a disaster for me (chicken falling apart in the pan as I try to flip it and all that). I’m normally against 100% baked chicken, but it works well in this case (thanks to the breadcrumbs, no doubt).

We’ve had this with baked brown rice pilaf and pasta, but I think my favorite non-vegetable side has been mashed cannellini beans. Once, I assumed parmesan cheese went into the breadcrumb mixture and only realized too late it did not. But cheese is never a bad thing, so clearly that adaptation was juuuust fine and I’m including it as an option below.

 

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We’re big burger fans in our family (who isn’t?!). In fact, for  his birthday (his FIFTH birthday, omg), Zachary specifically requested burgers (which he has done before), and I was happy to oblige. These are not the ones we happened to have that night, but I can tell you that he loved these, too. He even ate the spinach and he can be pretty finicky about cooked/wilted spinach (likes it raw, though).

I, too, adored these burgers. I’ve been making a different version of a sausage burger a lot lately, because, well, sausage is really good. So, the patties were clearly a win. I was unsure about how the texture of the spinach would play out on burgers, but I thought it went really well. The star, though, was the sun-dried tomato pesto, which lent a little sweetness and a bright punch of flavor to these bad boys.

This recipe comes together pretty quickly. I had planned on making the pesto the day before but didn’t, and it wasn’t a big deal to do it the same day (just note, though, if you are using non-oil packed tomatoes, you will need to leave a little time for reconstituting them in water). If you can find ground sausage (not in link form) that makes assembly even easier. You can definitely buy ground pork (or turkey or chicken) and make your own sausage-flavored patties. I’ve actually done that a few times (see aforementioned talk of eating a different version of sausage burgers) and have been tweaking my recipe so hopefully I’ll post it soon.

I’m already looking forward to the next time we have these, because I know it’s going to be soon.

 

 

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My mom likes to give people things. Every time I visit, I somehow manage to get sent home with a box of my childhood stuff, random books, a sponsored tee, a trinket, you name it. One time she tried sending us home with one of those enormous 6′ foot tall Costco stuffed bears until we told her she was insane and we would not be adding what was basically another person to the two bedroom condo we had at the time.

So, it was not at all surprising that when she came to visit us a while back, she brought bulk-sized amounts of quinoa and artichoke hearts. We’re still making our way through the quinoa because, whoa, it’s a lot of quinoa.

I’m not all that crazy about quinoa plain, unless it’s serving as a bed for a burrito bowl or something, but I’m all about it when it’s used in casserole fashion or when it’s cheesy/creamy. This has both of those things going for it and makes good leftovers (I sometimes struggle to have non-pasta leftovers), too.

I ended up adding chicken to this but obviously you don’t need to. It was just a good way to up the protein and increase the servings. Plus, I knew it would go over well with the kids. Quinoa sometimes goes over like a lead balloon with Zachary (to Ian it resembles most carbs, which indicates to him that it is delicious and worth of being shoveled into his mouth). With Z, it really depends on the day, his mood, or which way the wind blows. He did really like this dish, though, which I attribute not only to the chicken but to the copious amounts of cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and olives, both of which he adores.

 

 

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After waking up twice this week with new snow on the ground, I’m sad to report that maybe we haven’t officially reached “salad weather” yet. Sigh.

But, no matter, right? Salads can definitely be eaten year-round, especially when you’re trying to get back to lighter meals after all the comfort foods of winter. And, besides, this is one of my new favorite salads.

It’s based off one at a popular Chicago lunch/sandwich place called Hannah’s Bretzel.  They have really great sandwiches, but when I go I tend to get the small one (wecken) with an Ella’s salad on the side. Not to sound like a Yelp review, but the first time I got it, I was amazed at the size of the salad. Most “side” salads, especially in the Loop, are a few scrawny pieces of lettuces and maybe like 3 bites of other vegetables drowning in dressing. After I got past how miraculously substantial this one was, I loved it even more for the way it tasted.

This salad includes some of my favorite things: asparagus, roasted tomatoes, cashews, mozzarella, and cannellini beans. Definitely not your typical side salad. It comes with a white balsamic vinaigrette that’s a little tangier than normal vinaigrettes (which works for me, as I vastly prefer this to oilier vinaigrettes).  It’s worth going for, even if you don’t eat any of their vast array of fancy schmancy chocolate bars staring at you as you make your way through the line.

Now, if only this salad had the magical powers to bring warmer weather.

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I’ve been staring at a blank screen for a while here, because I don’t know how many more times or ways I can tell you that we’re a Tex-Mex loving family and that one-pot meals are highly desirable in our lives right now.

I’m not sure how many more ways I can say, “We loved this” or “My kids asked for thirds” or “Isn’t cast iron the best thing ever?” or “Why is Zachary insistent on eating sour cream straight off a spoon?”

This meal is just…us. It’s quick, it’s pretty healthy, it’s got the flavors and ingredients that we love, and it’s comforting (also, it can be served with sour cream).

There’s not much more to say other than that. Instead of wasting time reading my usual ramblings, go ahead and use time to make this. :)

Update: We’ve since made this with farro and looooved it, possibly even more than rice. :)

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I am on a roll with this whole remembering Pi Day thing, guys! This year I decided to make a savory pie, since I’ve already made two chocolate pies and fruit right now is not the greatest. And, hey, this can double as a St. Patrick’s Day post, too.  I’m just killing this whole blogging thing.

So, this pie. It starts with braised beef that gets fork-tender and delicious while cooking in a Guinness-y gravy. Then, you mix in some cheddar, plop it in a pan, top it with more cheddar and then puff pastry. Can we talk about puff pastry for a second? It should be its own food group, right? So good.

(I may have forgotten to put the cheese on the top and then had to peel back the crust to add it, sacrificing a prettier crust. Maaaaybe.)

This is some major comfort food. I know the temperatures are starting to rise (at least for now), but you still have some time to make this pie, and you should. We had it with peas (and salad) to sort of counteract the pastry (and the fact that we ate entirely too much on the first night), but it would be perfection with some mashed potatoes. Or maybe colcannon, to Irish it up? Either way, make it. And happy Pi Day!

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Years back, when I used to be able to walk home from work (the glory days), I would often stop at the Whole Foods near our apartment for whatever random ingredient I had forgotten to purchase that weekend. No matter what I went in for, I had a really hard time leaving without their seeduction loaf or rolls. So good. When I came across this recipe, it instantly reminded me of that bread, which I haven’t had in a number of years. Though different and not a “copycat” recipe, this bread is equally hearty, wholesome, and delicious.

The recipe makes two smaller pointed or round loaves. We killed the first loaf for dinner (and uh, pre-dinner snacking) and then my husband went out after the kids went to bed, leaving me all alone with loaf number two. :-\ FOR THE RECORD,  I didn’t eat it (all) and the next day I wrapped it in foil and reheated it in the oven for a bit and it was every bit as good as day #1,

Now, this is not 100% whole wheat. I will be the first to tell you that I often get annoyed at the moniker “whole wheat” when only about 60% of the flour used is whole wheat. But, the nice thing about that is that you don’t have to do a lot of prep as far as a starter and fermentation and all that jazz (there is a lot of rise time, but not overnight). You do soak the seeds overnight, just to make them softer, so there is a little prep the night before, but it takes all of 30 seconds. The baking stage is a little strange and involves quickly throwing some water into a hot oven, which is always fun.

I loved this bread. Loved it. I was so happy it turned out, especially after a couple brad-flops as of late. It’s delicious on its own, slathered with butter, or dipped into soup or stew (which is how we ate most of it). Now that I have like 46 lbs. of flax seeds, because our grocery store only sells them in gigantic containers, I can make this bread a million times over. And that’s fine by  my family and me.

 

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