There are a lot of mysteries in the food world, like how do liquid egg whites get beaten into stiff peaks? Why do buttered popcorn jelly beans exist? How come every time you drop a piece of toast, the side with the jelly/butter/peanut butter lands on the floor? Was the guy who invented nachos the most brilliant guy ever? And, the biggest one: Why is Swiss cheese awful and Gruyere so good? I will never know.

This chicken dish is a mouthful (both the title and the actual chicken) but it’s not difficult to make. You just stuff the chicken with some of the best things ever – prosciutto, arugula, and gruyere – cook it for a few minutes on the stove top and then while it’s finishing up in the oven (just a few minutes longer) you make a quick shallot sauce in the pan. It’s a meal that’s both easy to make for your family on a weeknight and also works for a dinner party. And the best part is that even though you wouldn’t know it, it’s also pretty healthy for you.

I feel like a broken record saying this, but we all liked this dish. Though I didn’t give him much with his piece, this was Ian’s first time eating prosciutto and he was a fan (rule of thumb: second children always get salty cured meats sooner).

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There was a (long) period in my life where I was basically keeping Lipton in business. And I’m not just talking about my iced tea addiction (which I still have, thankyouverymuch) but those flavored “pasta sides” packets. Except in my world they weren’t really sides so much as a meal and, man, did I love them. Sure, one package allowed me to reach my sodium limit for a month, but I’m sure that’s what made them so tasty.

Those types of things got kicked to the curb when I started doing more from-scratch cooking and more clean eating. I haven’t had them in a number of years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have cravings for something similar from time to time.  This is, of course, why things like creamy taco mac and skillet ground beef stroganoff are very popular dishes in our house.

This dish is simple. You cook the pasta and then you saute a couple of garlic cloves in a little butter and oil, and make a roux which thickens the sauce. Then, everything is combined, along with some cheese. Garlic powder is added, too, and though I normally don’t use it for anything other than rubs, it works well here because it makes the garlic flavor more robust—something I remember from the packets. It’s all on the table quickly and makes for a great side to pretty much anything. Although I haven’t tried it yet, I see no reason why you couldn’t make this all in one pot, a la the revolutionary mac and cheese, increasing the liquid by a bit, so I’ll probably try that next time.

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Mom guilt is awful. And I’m not even talking about the “mommy wars” stuff like breastfeeding or formula feeding, sleep training or not, discipline, and a host of other things. I’m talking about the guilt you inflict upon yourself as a mom that can make you feel both awful and awfully ridiculous. When I first learned I was pregnant with Ian, I basically freaked out. It’s not because it was a surprise or anything like that, but I was so worried about bringing a new person who needed our attention into the world of a near-3-year-old who’d had us all to himself for as long. And then when I realized my due date was a mere 10 days from the due date I had when I was pregnant with Zachary, well, then I started feeling guilt about their birthdays being so close. How could I have a third birthday party for Z with a really newly-new newborn? Would they feel slighted that they had to share parties as kids because our families are just not close enough to come twice? And would Ian look back on his first birthday picture and be mad he didn’t get his own celebration like his brother had?

The thing is, I know a lot of it is crazy. For one thing, it’s not like we even  have big parties. Also, does Ian care about his first birthday party? Of course not. He has no idea what’s going on, and all he cares about are things like eating four times as much food as you’d expect a kid in the 13th percentile to eat, climbing onto every surface, moving things from one container to another, and refusing to sleep.

Zachary got a little slighted for his party last year since Ian was less than 2 weeks old. And it wasn’t a big deal, because he couldn’t have cared less and, like I said, it’s not like we have huge parties. But I phoned it in by buying a cake (which had his name spelled incorrectly when we went to pick it up, FYI) and ordering pizza. So, because Ian has no clue what’s going on, anyway, I asked Zachary what kind of party he wanted this year. We made sure he knew he would be sharing the party with Ian, and he said that was just fine as long as there were two cakes. Well, obviously!

I was pretty happy when Zachary chose vanilla as his cake flavor. I asked him a few times, and his answer always remained vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. I like chocolate cake well enough, but I’ll choose vanilla over chocolate in almost every instance. And make it vanilla bean cake with vanilla bean frosting? Well, then there’s just no contest.

Z wanted a football party, and originally, I’d planned on attempting to make this into a Chicago Bears cake by basically stenciling the C logo in orange decorating sugar, but they were out of orange at the store and I really did not want to attempt piping, because, guys? I suck so hard at decorating cakes. SO. Sprinkles to the rescue! I did make some cookies and we had football-themed food like sliders, Italian beef, mini pretzel-wrapped hot dogs, and the like.

So, back to the cake. I was a big, big fan. Everyone liked this cake, especially Ian, who had his very own, and cried so hard when I took it away from him. If I hadn’t, though, he would have eaten an entire 6″ layer cake on his own and, well, that’s not cool. Because if anyone gets to eat an entire one of these cakes, it’s going to be me.

 

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Remember how I was just singing the praises of marinades for weeknights? Well, allow me to introduce another (with one more to follow soon).

When it comes to steaks, I’m usually a pretty simple girl—salt and lots of freshly ground pepper, cooked just under medium rare. Nothing more, nothing less. I am more than okay eating flank steak the same way, but flank steak really does work well with marinades. It’s a leaner cut, so marinating it makes it really tender. And with a simple marinade like this one, it takes pretty much zero time to amp up the flavor.

This marinade is just a simple vinaigrette of sorts, with Worcestershire added. I love Worcestershire with beef and use it often in marinades and burgers. I’ve kept this marinade both incredibly simple to make and easy to memorize, since there is the same amount of each ingredient (also makes it easy to increase the recipe without doing math :)).

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I love pancakes and waffles as much as the next girl (and crepes! and french toast!), but most of the time, I’m a savory breakfast eater. Of course, if I can get a savory breakfast followed by a pancake in place of a piece of toast, then it’s a win all around (take note, restaurants: you should all offer this option). One of the reasons for my love of savory breakfast foods is chorizo. Because when it comes to breakfast, there is nothing greater than chilaquiles with chorizo. Except for maybe huevos rancheros with chorizo. Or an omelet or skillet with chorizo. What is boils down to is I WANT TO EAT ALL THE CHORIZO.

So, these hash browns. Basically, they are shredded potatoes with chorizo mixed in. In other words, you can’t really go wrong. The idea actually stemmed from these chorizo-mushroom-potato tacos, when Zachary said they tasted a lot like hash browns. Turns out I’m not the only one interested in chorizo hash browns, and a quick google search found this recipe. We love to make hash browns on the weekend and these are a great twist on standard hash browns that are really not much more difficult or time-consuming.

Are you a savory or sweet breakfast person? And more, importantly, what can I add chorizo to that I haven’t already? :)

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It’s been way too long since I made biscotti, and the almost-full container of almonds in the pantry was practically begging to be used. I remembered this recipe I’d saved a while back and it made for a happy kid, a happy mom, and a happy now-half-full container of almonds.

Zachary really liked these and saw them as a treat, which is great, considering they aren’t bad for you at all. Biscotti in general are largely guilt-free. Although some versions use butter, the only kind I’ve ever made use eggs for binding, and occasionally a little oil. This recipe uses all whole wheat flour, to make them even better for you, and only a small amount of brown sugar (especially when you consider how many biscotti this recipe  makes—which is a lot). They are great on their own, dunked in coffee, or eaten in the same bite as a piece of chocolate (I wouldn’t know anything about that, though).

 

I halved the recipe because I wasn’t sure I had enough almond meal and probably didn’t need the entire batch around, anyway, but I’m posting the original recipe so I don’t have to tell you to use 1.5 eggs. :) The only changes I made were to increase the almonds a bit and also to add some almond extract. If you couldn’t tell, I have juuust a small almond extract obsession.

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(except, I’m calling it chicken and rice because I increased the chicken. :))

 

Oh, first day of spring. Weren’t you just lovely? Sigh. Like pretty much everyone, I am so over this winter. On this particular first day of spring, my littlest kid turned one (how the hell did THAT happen?) after battling a few days of a high fever. Not to be outdone, Zachary apparently might see snow on his birthday in April if the forecasts are to be believed. Duuuuude. Come on already.

The one redeeming factor of this looooong winter is getting to eat a lot of comfort foods. And this dish is about as simple and easy as you can get with regards to comfort foods. Chicken and rice are cooked together alongside a carrot-onion-celery pestata for a dish that is truly homey and rich. Using short-grained arborio rice and finishing it off with just a touch of butter and cheese make this creamy and, by all accounts, a big winner for everyone in our family (as long as you don’t count the whole cleaning-rice-up-after-a-baby-eats-it problem).

Although this is perfect winter food, I have no doubts that a little lemon zest and juice could brighten this dish right up and make it more spring-y. Of course, I’ll look for any way to eat a dish like this year-round, and would have no qualms eating it in the dead of summer, either.

 

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This rice, alongside the Hawaiian-marinated chicken, was a favorite dinner of mine as of late. It was quick, healthy, and a nice change from the standard “comfort” and hearty foods we’ve been eating so much of during this endless winter. It gives me some hope that maaaaaaaaaybe spring is coming soon. (Yesterday’s snowfall during the first day of spring, though, not so much.)

I mentioned earlier that we’ve been eating too much white rice lately, in part because brown rice takes too long to cook for us during a weekday. But fried brown rice is easy to achieve during the week, because you can just cook the rice the night before, since cold rice is ideal. Then, making the actual dish is really fast.

This particular fried rice has a little island-y feel to it thanks to the pineapple. It’s nice and colorful from the peppers and it just tastes great. You really can never go wrong with ginger and garlic, right? The soy sauce adds a nice salty balance to the sweet pineapple and you get a little deep, toasty flavor from the sesame seed oil. This was a hit with everyone (even Ian, who enjoyed his portion soy sauce-less :)).

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Today is St. Patrick’s Day. I’m eating leftover Japanese for lunch, making Greek food for dinner, and posting a Hawaiian chicken marinade on the blog. Keeping it global!

Marinated chicken is definitely one of those “been there, done that, sick of it” meals for a lot of people. I admit I used to make it a fair amount, got sick of it, and then it sort of fell off my radar. (It “helps” that organic chicken breasts cost as much as our mortgage.) But with this weeknight circus we currently have going on, trying to get meals on the table in not nearly enough time, I’ve been bringing it back. I came across this marinade recently and it sounded perfect – so few ingredients, really quick prep, and what sounded like flavorful chicken. I could tell with the ingredients it would be a big hit with all of us, but especially with Zachary. I was right!

It took so little time to get together, which is much appreciated when you’re also trying to get together bottles, kids’ breakfasts, and all your own stuff after the kids go to bed but before collapsing on the couch, maybe making it through a DVRd episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine,  going to bed, and starting it all over again.

We had this with pineapple fried rice (recipe forthcoming) and it worked especially well because the pineapple went into the rice and the juice went into the marinade. I really loved the meal all around, and I can’t wait to make it again.

 

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Guys! I remembered Pi Day two years in a row! Despite my memory being terrible, I somehow manage to have what Zachary calls “a good mind” regarding chocolate, I guess. And, to make it a two-for-one, I bring you something that is equally festive for St. Patrick’s Day as it is for Pi Day!

I’ll be honest and say that maybe this isn’t really a pie. It’s called a “dessert” on the Taste of Home site, so I took liberty in calling it a pie. I mean, it’s round, so it’s got that going for it. Anyway, it starts with a layer of brownies studded with mint chocolates. Then, there’s a layer of what is basically a white chocolate no-bake cheesecake, also studded with mint chocolates and some peppermint extract for good measure. Finally, it’s topped with a layer of ganache.

If you couldn’t tell, this is not the world’s healthiest dessert. It is, in fact, quiiiite terrible for you. But, that only means it’s really good. :) I actually liked this better on subsequent days than on the day I made this, which surprised me. Tom thought the top layer should have been a little thinner, and I don’t necessarily disagree. Ganache is awesome, but you probably don’t need quite so much. I’m leaving the (not-quite-but-almost) same amount below, though, so you can make up your own mind.

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