Category Archives: Food

Blue Apron – Dinner is served!

I feel like I’m pretty late to this party, but we just tried out Blue Apron for the first time last week. Where has this been all my adult life???

When life gets busy, I am notorious for completely foregoing meal planning and grocery shopping. Instead of a big, once-a-week trip, I end up at the store every other day, trying to scramble together enough food to last just a few more days, just until I can sit down and make that list. The last couple of months? I’ve been crazy busy with work. It’s wonderful, but it wreaks havoc on my housewife skills.

Enter Blue Apron. These ads have been popping up on websites that I frequent for a long time now. I’ve made it to the main page before changing my mind on several occasions. I finally decided to bite the bullet and give it a try, because honestly? I wasn’t sure when I’d manage to finally make a grocery list. With Blue Apron, I can choose the meals I want delivered based on my family’s preferences. I can skip a week if we’re not going to need the meals or if we’ll be out of town. And there’s no commitment. I can cancel whenever I want if this isn’t working for us.

I started out with two meals a week, to serve a family of four. If after a few weeks, the kids aren’t eating any of it, I’ll switch to the meals that serve two.

My first box was scheduled to be delivered last Thursday, according to my delivery email. It arrived on Wednesday…while I was on a field trip with my son. Everything comes really well insulated and iced down, but I learned an important lesson. Track the delivery. Don’t rely on the date in the email. If it had been the dead of summer or I’d been gone longer, this might have been a problem.

The first recipe we tried was for Barbacoa Lamb & Beef Tacos, with Roasted Honeynut Squash and Brussels Sprouts. Have you ever seen a honeynut squash? They’re adorable! I never knew there was such a thing. The other important thing to know? You’d better have a lot of prep bowls. I felt like I kept getting out more bowls! There was a lot of chopping involved for this first recipe. It took me longer than the anticipated 15 minutes. I don’t know if “Prep Time: 15 minutes” is printed on every recipe card, but that’s what both of the cards I received this week say. I’m not a professional chef or anything (I know – shocking!), so it takes me…not twice that amount of time, but definitely longer.

I was really impressed with these tacos, though. They even looked (pretty much) like the photo on the recipe card when all was said and done.

Last night, I cooked my second meal – Pan-Seared Chicken with Roasted Fall Vegetables and Butter-Caper Sauce. I did manage the chopping in closer to 15 minutes on this recipe, probably because there weren’t as many squash to peel and chop. Or onions.

Once again, it looks like the picture! I know that’s an odd thing to obsess about. It happens so rarely that I’m really excited to have pulled it off twice in one week!

Overall, I love this service. At least twice a week, I know I’ll have delicious meals that all I have to do is follow instructions, to break up to monotony of cooking the same meals that I know by heart over and over and over… Don’t get me wrong, we obviously love those meals, but it’s nice to try something new every once in a while. This is definitely a game changer.

If anyone is interested in trying out Blue Apron, let me know! I have two free meal offers that I can send to friends. 🙂

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Pumpkins – From the Patch to the Oven (and everything in between)

  1. Find the most sincere pumpkin patch in your area. For us, this was McCall’s Pumpkin Patch in Moriarty, New Mexico. dsc_0248 dsc_0258 dsc_0260 dsc_0266
  2. Bring your pumpkins home and sit them on the porch for a couple of weeks. You know, to “ripen.” Ha!
  3. On All Hallow’s Eve, set up shop in the back yard and carve! Be sure to save as many seeds as you can, a process which is guaranteed to make your children say “Eeeew!” and beg to wash their hands 1,096 times. dsc_0286 dsc_0288 dsc_0290 dsc_0293
  4. Place the pumpkins back on the front porch to hold court. dsc_0296 dsc_0297
  5. Put all those glorious pumpkin seeds in a colander. Wash the yucky pumpkin guts off, and spread on a dish towel to dry overnight.
  6. Depending on how many seeds you have, dump those babies onto a baking sheet (or two).img_2604
  7. Melt some butter, and grab your favorite seasonings. I made one pan with just butter and salt, and the other pan with this Tajin deliciousness.img_2606 img_2607
  8. Pour butter over your little pile of seeds, spread them out in a single layer in your pan, then sprinkle with seasoning.img_2609 img_2610
  9. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. If you have your pans on separate shelves like I did, I also like to switch them at the halfway point.
  10. Once your seeds are nice and toasty, let them cool, then serve as the perfect Halloween snack! I always like to have a little something salty on hand, when the candy bingeing starts to get old.  img_2612
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Halloween Cookie Extravaganza!

I went on a bit of a baking binge this week. It was partially driven by the fact that I’d volunteered to donate treats to the school for Spooky Story Night, and also by the fact that I went 10 days without an oven.

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If you want to make something quick and easy this Halloween, try out these Gooey Monster Eye Cookies. I found the small candy eyes in the baking section of my grocery store, and the larger candy eyes came from Hobby Lobby.

Gooey Monster Cookies

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 egg

green gel food coloring

powdered sugar

candy eyeballs

  1. In a stand mixer, combine butter, vanilla, egg, and cream cheese. Beat until fluffy.
  2. Add cake mix and stir until combined.
  3. Add food coloring. Once the mixture reaches the desired color, chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Roll dough into 1 and 1/2-inch balls, then roll in powdered sugar. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, and push candy eyes into cookies while warm.

The original recipe comes from Lil’ Luna’s blog.

These cookies are really gooey and delicious. The next time I make them, I’ll probably try using white cake mix instead of yellow. I wanted more of a Mike Wazowski green, and what I ended up with was a bit more Oscar the Grouch.

My second cookie project of the week was a bit more involved. OK, it was a lot more involved.

I have a good friend who is a cookie master. I tried decorating sugar cookies myself years ago for Neely’s Hello Kitty birthday party, and the results were horrible. Helene saved the day! Since then, she’s shared her cookie-making secrets with me and taught me a thing or two about royal icing.

img_2586This was my first attempt all on my own. I definitely have room for improvement, but all things considered, I’m really happy with how these turned out. I may not have been able to cook dinner for my family for two days with cookie accoutrements spread all over the kitchen, but I have desserts for days!

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What’s new in North Dakota…

Y’all, I am a terrible blogger. I hardly ever remember to write. I have been so wrapped up in learning to balance my new schedule with work and family and just normal life in general that I’m afraid I don’t have much interesting to say.

Then again, maybe it will be interesting…to somebody.

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The last time I wrote, I was not in a great place. I’d completely upended my schedule to fit in more workouts and try to prep meals for the week all at one time. And feed my children completely separate meals. I’m really glad I didn’t just give up. I knew there was a solution, a way to balance everything and make it work. I just had to find it!

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Step one: Quit trying to pre-cook a week’s worth of meals. This works for some people. For me, it just…doesn’t. If I’m going to be in the kitchen cooking the kids’ dinner, I might as be well cooking mine and John’s simultaneously. I enjoy taking a break from the computer to stand in the kitchen and prepare a meal at the end of the day. I needed to take that time back. As soon as I did, I started to feel less overwhelmed. It also gives me the freedom to change up our proteins and veggies in the evening if we’re not “feeling” the basics in our original meal plans.

Step two: Take a deep breath and ask your trainer how to combine workouts and cut back on the gym time a little bit. I originally had a workout on my calendar every day of the week but Sunday. I managed it the first week, but I felt like I was neglecting other areas of my life to be at the gym. Now, I weight train three days a week, and I still try to fit in cardio every day but Sunday. I’ve stopped guilting myself to death when I can’t manage everything, though. Sometimes, things happen and I don’t make it. I’m learning to regroup and reboot the next day.

Step three: Remind yourself that you work from home. You make your own schedule. It doesn’t matter if you are getting most of your work done in the afternoon, because the gym is less crowded in the morning. You’re getting your work done!

All in all, I’m feeling much better and very satisfied with how things are going now. I’ve re-learned how best to feed myself, what to feed myself, and when to feed myself. I’ve lost a little bit of weight, but more importantly, I’m super happy with my progress photos. I don’t know that I’ll ever be brave enough to actually share them, but this mama will not be afraid of her swim suits come summer.

The best thing is – now that I’ve gotten into a rhythm, I am confident that I’ll be able to continue down the right path with my diet and exercise. Tiffany has made my goals feel very attainable. I am working hard, but I don’t feel like I’m hurting my body to get results (ex. starvation-type diets). She’s even going to give me a separate meal plan for when I decide to start training for another run.

If you are looking for a personal trainer with a great program, Tiffany is awesome! Here’s her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/crzyfit

We’ve been doing her 6-week online program. You can do it from anywhere!

Snowy Sunday

It’s a snowy Sunday here in North Dakota, so I’m writing because I don’t have much to do today. Alright, that’s not necessarily true. I have laundry to do. I could pick up around the house. I could reorganize my closets. A more accurate statement would be that there isn’t much around here that I want to do today.

The last couple of weeks have been busy! Usually, this time of year drags by, so this seems kind of strange. We’ve started a new nutrition and exercise plan (with a personal trainer!), so a lot of my time and energy lately has been focused on learning better eating habits and making time to go to the gym.

Normally, I’d be on a treadmill three, maybe four times a week. Last week, I was at the gym 6 out of 7 days, doing weight training in addition to cardio. It’s definitely an adjustment. A good adjustment, but it definitely takes a conscious effort right now. I’m sure it will become habit within a few weeks and won’t feel so weird, but I’m not there just yet.

The meal plan is something else entirely. Right now, we’re pretty much repeating the same meals every day. I’m learning how to prepare things ahead of time, so we can grab them and eat what we’re supposed to without thinking about it. This has been the bigger challenge for me. I really prefer to cook meals that the whole family can eat, all at the same time. My kids are not on board with what John and I are supposed to eat, though, so I feel like I’m making 15 different meals each day. If we had a second refrigerator, I might have room to stockpile the way I’d like to. As it is, I seem to be spending a little bit of time each day prepping one thing that will last for a few days. Then, I’m making something extra for the kids each night for dinner. I’ve tried to time things so we can at least all sit down together with our respective meals. I hope I get all of this figured out soon. It is pretty exhausting.

That, my friends, is all for now. No photos. Nothing truly exciting. I just needed to run my mouth for a minute. 😉

Eat – Roast Chicken & Potatoes

Once a week for the last few months, I have been buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. We’ll reheat it for dinner the first night, then I save the leftover meat to use on salads, sandwiches, homemade pizzas, etc. for the rest of the week. Sometimes, I just eat it as a snack, straight out of the container. I’m aware that it’s a little weird. It’s possible that I have a roast chicken addiction. If you enjoy roast chicken and have a long afternoon free, I suggest you try this recipe.

Until now, I haven’t had a good recipe that I can rely upon to make my own roast chicken. I stumbled upon this gem in the March issue of Bon Appetit. They call it “Herbed Faux-tisserie Chicken and Potatoes.” It is almost, almost as good as real rotisserie.

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Here’s what you need:

2 tsp. fennel seeds (I didn’t have any, so I used caraway seeds)

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh marjoram; plus 4 sprigs, divided

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme; plus 4 sprigs, divided

1 tbsp. kosher salt, plus a little extra

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more

6 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 lbs.)

1 lemon, quartered

1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, halved, or quartered if large

Here’s what you do:

Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Coarsely grind fennel (or caraway) seeds and red pepper flakes in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. Combine spice mixture, chopped marjoram, chopped thyme, 1 tbsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and 3 tbsp. olive oil in a small bowl. Rub the mixture on the chicken – inside and out. Stuff chicken with lemon (the whole thing didn’t fit in mine), garlic, 2 marjoram sprigs, and 2 thyme sprigs. Tie legs together with kitchen twine.

Toss potatoes with remaining oil an a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt & pepper. Push potatoes to the edges of the baking sheet and scatter remaining marjoram and thyme sprigs in the center. Place chicken on the herbs. Roast, turning potatoes and basting chicken every hour, until skin is browned, meat is tender, and potatoes are golden brown and soft. This takes about 3 hours. Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

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Eat – Muffin Fail

So. You know how there are people out there who love to bake and everything they make turns out beautifully? I am not one of those people.

I have this banana chocolate chip muffin recipe that I love. I don’t think I’ve ever shared it here. I should. Anyway, I seem to have a knack for letting bananas get super-ripe on my countertop, so this week in my effort not to let them go to waste, I had the audacity to mess with a good thing.

I thought I’d try to be all trendy and less gluten-y or whatever, and I replaced the whole wheat flour in my recipe with almond flour. Y’all, I know absolutely nothing about the leavening properties of almond flour. The batter tasted great. (Don’t worry, no raw egg!) It smelled great. Shoot, these little guys even looked great when I first pulled them out of the oven.

When I walked back through the kitchen 15 minutes later?

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Not so great. It’s like a science experiment that went bad. They totally fell out.

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This picture is a little better. They look like little muffin volcanos.

Who did I think I was kidding? I’m not Paleo or primal or gluten-free or any of those things. Why didn’t I just use flour? I have nothing against flour. I guess it was just because I happened to have a package of almond flour in the pantry. Don’t worry. I won’t make this mistake again. I’ll be sticking to the recipe that works! I promise I will share it when I get around to making them again. My baking ego is a little bruised, so you may have to be patient with me.

Also, a little “food for thought,” if you will…I Googled “how to bake with almond flour,” and the third entry down was titled “5 Reasons to Avoid Almond Flour.” The number one reason? “Almond flour skews perception about quantity. One cup of almond flour contains about 90 almonds!” Gross. No more almond flour. We are nutty enough around here.

 

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Eat – Baked Avocados with Salsa

I have a new go-to for lunch. It’s healthy and yummy, and as an added bonus, it’s ready in less than 15 minutes. Bam!
Baked Avocado

I overheard someone talking about these babies the other day, and I knew I had to try them myself. They’d make a good, quick dinner too, maybe with a side of rice or black beans?

All you need is an avocado (or more if you’re feeding more than just yourself), pico de gallo or salsa (from the produce section of the grocery store – the good stuff), and some shredded cheese. I have a pizzeria mix that I combined with some cheddar.

Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. If the pit is small, use a spoon to carve out a little extra space for your salsa. Place the avocados in a baking dish, fill with salsa, and top with cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, and voila! Deliciousness.

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White Wine Bundt Cake

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On Sunday, I made a bundt cake to share with friends. Since I have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding approximately 42,016 times, bundt cakes always make me think of this scene…

Thankfully, my cake received a little bit better reception than poor Harry Miller’s did.

The best thing about this recipe? It’s super simple – just boxed mix with a few extras added in. Simple is good, because when I see a scratch cake recipe, I get heart palpitations. Mostly, it’s to do with the fact that I don’t like dirtying five bowls and 12 spoons to make one cake.

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White Wine Bundt Cake

1 box yellow cake mix (the original recipe specified to use Duncan Hines, but I’m a rebel and used Betty Crocker)

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 small box vanilla instant pudding (3.4 oz.)

3/4 cup water

4 eggs

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Pour into a greased bundt cake pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Glaze

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup white wine

In a small saucepan, combine butter, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add white wine. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Pie Muffins

Pretty much every time I’ve been to the grocery within the last month, I’ve bought a can of pumpkin. I see them on the big display at the front of the store. I think, “Hmm…it’s fall. It’s a good time to start baking with pumpkin. I don’t think I have any,” every single time. I have amassed quite the collection of pumpkin.

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So last week, when I stumbled across a fun recipe for Pumpkin Pie Spice Cake Doughnut Bites (try saying that 10 times fast!) on Pinterest, I made them two days later. Completely out of character. I have board after board of pinned recipes that I never get around to trying. I will say, I’m glad I baked these. I already had all of the ingredients on hand, except for Turbinado sugar. I dusted them mine powdered sugar after baking instead.

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For the sake of this post, however, I’m not calling them donuts. You bake these in a mini muffin pan, and they are more cake-y than donut-y to me. Everyone in my family looked at them and called them muffins. I wish they’d been a little more like donuts, since there’s only one place in this town to get a good donut. Krispy Kreme? Dunkin? Come to Minot, North Dakota! This is a cold place. I’m fairly certain you could make a killing selling warm donuts and hot coffee here. Especially if there’s a drive-thru involved.

Anyway, use that link up above. Click on out of here and check out the original recipe. There’s no good reason for me to re-type it. 🙂

Go bake with pumpkin! And if you have a favorite pumpkin recipe I might want to try to use up some of my collection, please share!

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