Tailgate at Your Place: Sweet Potato Tater Tots

I’m excited to share a fun, healthier recipe as part of Red Baron’s Homegating campaign. Every year when football season rolls around, we look forward to both college and NFL game days. But with three small kids, actually getting to the stadium for a tailgate before a big game is not easy anymore. So, instead, we tailgate at home – and so I was so excited when Red Baron asked me to participate in their Tailgate at Your Place sweepstakes campaign. We tailgate at home every weekend – whether we are inviting neighbors and friends over for finger foods and pizza or chili to watch the game with us, or just hanging out together as a family, we love to celebrate football season with good food while we tailgate at home.

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Weekly Menu: What I’m Cooking the Week Before Christmas

I used to share our weekly menus a lot more often. And then the world jumped on the Paleo bandwagon and I kind of shrunk away from those posts. So here’s the deal: I have always been an everything in moderation, no strict dietary requirements (other than those that are required due to allergies) type of family cook. I find the new diets very interesting and worth researching, I’m tempted to try the Whole 30 challenge this spring when the baby is born, but generally, I believe moderation is the key. We strive as a family to eat healthy, home cooked meals. That does not mean that I never feed my children processed foods. That does not mean that during a really busy week it’s not Tortilla Chili made out of 10 cans in a crockpot. We try to eat lean meats, I try to make fish – normally salmon since my kids will eat it – at least once a week, and pasta is usually only a once a week thing (not this week, you’ll see shortly). Generally I make sure that we have fruit with breakfast (usually bananas),  fruit as part of our morning snack (clementines, pears, whatever is on sale/ in season at the store that week), a fruit and veggie (usually apples and carrots) on our lunch plates, and a veggie with dinner (usually a routine side salad, honestly) to get our 5 servings for the day – but it doesn’t always happen. But anyway, all this is a very long justification for saying, if you like ideas for what other people feed their families or are in a recipe slump, read on to see what I’m making this week (no original recipes – all link out to my sources).

 

During the holidays, it can get really easy to have no dinner planned, not want to think about food on top of all the things you have on your schedule, and too easy to run to the store for a frozen pizza for dinner (nothing wrong with that…but when it becomes a multiple night a week habit, then I know I need to get back on the meal planning bandwagon). The Girl Who Ate Everything is my go-to for easy, family friendly meals, and so the majority of this week’s menu comes from her site.

 

Sunday: Leftover Night – I pull everything we didn’t quite finish the previous week out of the fridge and it’s a free-for-all. Sometimes we do leftover night’s twice a week, but I’ve been relying heavily on leftovers the last few weeks so planned out meals for all but Sunday this week.

Monday: Baked Salmon with Rice Pilaf and Broccoli – sometimes I spread a little adobo sauce on the salmon for a spicy flair, sometimes we go lemon and rosemary, sometimes soy sauce. This week it’s chipotle salmon for me and B, I leave the adobo sauce off the kids’ portions since it’s too spicy for them.

Tuesday: Taco Pasta with green beans

Wednesday: Asian Turkey Meatballs on Rice with salad on the side

Thursday: Crock Pot Lasagna with Baked Zucchini Spears

Friday: Party Night

Saturday: Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

So that’s what we’re eating this week…what about you?

A Little Help for the Holidays from Kraft: Great Holiday Party Appetizer

I feel like this time of year I’m always trying to come up with a good, go-to dish to take to parties. In the past, our big hit has been my pomegranate guacamole, but I’m pretty sure I’ve inundated our friends with that one, so this year I needed a new go-to. I’m going to share with you pretty much the best, and easiest, dip recipe I’ve ever tasted. Truth: I’m not an artichoke dip fan, and I feel like that’s a staple at many holiday parties, so when I had this onion dip at a friend’s baby shower last month, I stalked my friend who was hosting until she gave me the recipe, and made it as an appetizer for Thanksgiving. Instead of making the whole recipe, because we were only having 7 adults, I made 2/3 of the original recipe, and that was a mistake because it was gone in about 30 minutes. And I’m now on tap to make this dip for every holiday gathering from now until Christmas…and let’s be honest, probably New Year’s Eve.

 

Hot Onion Dip

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Using Roast Chicken Leftovers: Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad

 

There used to be a chain restaurant called Paradise Cafe here that had the very best chicken salad – chocked full of walnuts, cranberries and other crunch. And they gave you a glorious chocolate chip cookie with every sandwich. It was my favorite and was within walking distance of my office when I worked in Boulder – which was dangerous. The restaurant – or at least any of the franchises that were in my neck of the woods – has closed down, and I’ve had lots of cravings for that fabulous salad. I saw a recipe on Pinterest for a chicken salad that used pecans, and it turned out to be one of those Pinterest links that goes to nowhere, so I invented my own based on lots of different recipes and it absolutely satisfies my craving.

Every two weeks, I roast a whole chicken. It’s super easy, and makes me feel like a very accomplished homemaker even though the reality is that I just throw it in the oven and it’s done. But whatever, a girl should know how to roast a chicken – it seems impressive. On roast chicken making night, we love that crispy skin and chicken, but we always kind of hem and haw about the leftovers. So this is now my go-to use for the leftovers (I’ve also used the leftovers to make grilled pineapple barbeque chicken quesadillas, and those are delicious, too).

Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad

Leftover Roast Chicken Meat – skin removed and cut into small, easy to eat pieces (*sometimes I just throw all the ingredients into my blender and get a really fine chicken salad – like the one pictured above, other times I chop with a knife. Just depends on how lazy I’m feeling what kind of mood I’m in).

1/2 cup Mayo or Plain Greek Yogurt (Get creative here – I like to do half and half, Mr. B likes a mix of Yogurt and Ranch dressing, you can use more or less depending on how “dressed” you like your chicken salad or if you’re using more chicken, up your mayo or yogurt)

1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Squeeze of Honey

Handful of Crasins

Handful of walnuts

4 Celery Stalks, chopped into bite size pieces

Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix everything together, refrigerate for a couple hours and enjoy. We usually eat ours over  a big bed of lettuce, but it’s delicious as a sandwich, too.

 

 

Crockpot Lasagna

I’ve been a little blog absent lately, but I feel like all I’m doing is raising my kids and working – and I’m not sure how to translate that into blog posts without overwhelming you all with posts about family life or droning on about how to write *good* content for websites that’s also searchable. I’ll work on some balance, but I think it’s time for me to accept that my life is not all sewing and cooking and small DIY projects in the hours of free time I used to have between work and going to bed at night. 

But, with that being said, I’m on a health kick – I decided on Nell’s 3 month birthday that I needed to get my butt in gear and ditch the last 10 pounds I had laying around, which has translated to cooking every night for our family. So I’ve been cooking up a storm – mostly tried and true recipes that I’ve shared in the past, but some new ones, too. Last night’s crockpot lasagna was a hit, and you all know that I’m new to the lasagna game. What was I missing all those years??? Also, just because I’m on a health kick doesn’t mean this is diet food – I’m all about moderation. Just had to put that caveat in there.

This took me about 20 minutes of prep, and 4 – 5 hours in the crockpot on low. So much faster than any lasagna I’ve ever made in the hands-on time. The only thing I’d caution is not to go over 5 hours in the crockpot – ours was great, but if you left it longer, I think it would get mushy. So maybe a good crockpot meal for days when you’re around but don’t have time to be prepping dinner. Which is pretty much everyday for me – around, but not available.

Crockpot Lasagna (recipe via The Girl Who Ate Everything)

- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 15 oz. container of Ricotta Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup grated paremsan cheese
- 1 egg
- 2 tsps dried parsley
- 6 uncooked lasagna noodles.

Make a meat sauce by browning the beef and onion, then adding garlic. Add spaghetti sauce and water and simmer about five minutes. Meanwhile, mix ricotta, 1 cup of mozarella, 2 Tablespoons of paremsan cheese, the egg and parsley together (I let Thomas do this). Then pour 1 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of the slow cooker, layer with 3 lasagna noodles (broken if necessary), half the ricotta mixture, 2 cups of meat sauce, the  remaining three noodles, the rest of the ricotta mixture and the rest of the meat sauce. Cook on low no more than 5 hours until the noodles are soft, and top with remaining mozarella and parmesan cheese, replace lid for  a few minutes, cut into 10 servings and eat!


So delicious, so easy and so going to be a Mckevitt family staple this winter. Thomas even ate it. Granted I had to bribe him by spelling words for him after every bite, but whatever works.
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Our Favorite Summer Recipes Roundup

Here are some of the recipes (and non-recipes) we’ve been loving this summer:
 
  • Grilled Bruschetta Chicken - This is such an easy and fresh chicken dish, and we love using tomatoes and basil from our garden.
  • Salmon with soy sauce – My mom brought this over for dinner right after Nell was born and it was so easy and so tasty. Just drizzle a little bit of soy sauce on top of salmon filets, throw them in the oven in a glass dish (at about 350 degrees) and dinner’s ready in about 12 minutes.
  • Chipotle Hamburgers with Chipotle Lime yogurt – Derived from this recipe, I just chop up 1 1/2 chipotle peppers and add 1 Tablespoon adobo sauce (that the chipotles come in) to ground beef. Mix it all together, grill and serve with the yogurt: a single serving plain greek yogurt container, 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, and the juice of one lime. It’s such a fun and fresh take on burgers. (PS – we’ve followed the linked recipe with ground turkey too, and it’s delicious as well).
  • Chicken Caesar Salads – So easy to make and a light (depending on how you dress it) option. We had this a few times when it was over 100 degrees here in June and July and the thought of cooking was too much – just buy a rotisserie chicken and call it good!
  • Pizza Quesadillas – Thomas and I had these several nights this summer Mr. B was at class and it was too hot (and too hectic) to really cook.  So good, so easy. 
  • Caprese Paninis – I like these on sourdough bread, but any good bread will be great. We just buy a hunk of fresh mozzarella, use tomatoes and basil out of the garden, layer the ingredients and grill them on a skillet, pressing them down with a pot lid to make them panini like. Mr. B likes his drizzled with olive oil, I like balsamic on mine.
  • Pesto Pasta – Another summer staple because of my basil supply. I use my mom’s pesto recipe. This is one of my favorite foods.
What have been your go-to recipes this summer? We’ve still got some warm days left (and if the Colorado weather forecasters are correct – that would be new – we’re looking at 80-90 degree days until the end of October).


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Quinoa Stuffed Eggplant

I’ve never been great at cooking with vegetables, but I’ve always wanted to do a better job about keeping up with what our garden produces and fixing healthy, more vegetable based meals for our family. I’ve also recently jumped on the quinoa bandwagon…you know me, always late to a trend. Love me some quinoa.
This year we planted lots of tomatoes, an eggplant, lots of basil, and rosemary in our garden. And jalapeños that haven’t done anything yet. I was planning to do more, but got sidetracked by having a baby. Happens. 
 
Last year, we were overwhelmed by eggplant. Eggplant Parmesan and roasted eggplant were all I did with it, and that got old fast.  So when Mr. B decided he wanted eggplant again this year, I wasn’t excited.  In an effort to put together a meatless meal for our family this week, I decided to make an eggplant quinoa dish. After a quick Google search, I settled on Quinoa Stuffed Eggplant, and adapted this recipe to maximize what I had available, and eliminate dairy (so technically, this might be vegan. But that’s a trend I’m pretty sure I’m never jumping on).  Everything but the corn, garlic, onion and quinoa came from our garden. That’s fun and new for me! And it was so delicious and filling.


Here’s what you need (for two servings with some leftover stuffing, which is an excellent lunch the next day, or you could probably use two eggplants and keep the rest of the amounts the same if you wanted to serve 4).

Quinoa Stuffed Eggplant (adapted from Mother Earth News)

1/2 cup quinoa
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 eggplant
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomatoes chopped
1 cup corn
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Fresh or dried oregano to taste
Salt and Pepper

Cook quinoa according to package instructions, and when the liquid has all evaporated, stir and let stand for 5 minutes, then mix in about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Set this aside for later.
Meanwhile, slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, and scoop out the innards. I scored the eggplant innards and scooped them out of the skin with a spoon, keeping the skin intact, then cut the innards (I’m sure there’s a better name for this) into small chunks and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350, and season the eggplant shells with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake 12 – 15 minutes.

While the shells are baking, sauté the onion and garlic in the remaining olive oil 3 – 5 minutes. Add eggplant chunks and cook another 3 minutes, Next add the quinoa, corn and tomatoes, sauté another 3 minutes or so, and finally add basil and oregano. It’s so colorful and smells so good:


Fill the shells with the quinoa mixture and bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 350. I prepped this during naptime, then just put the final product in the oven for the 25 minutes before dinner. It was delicious, and I was pretty proud of my almost all-from-the-garden meal. How very Boulder of me. I had to provide research to back-up my claim that you can eat the eggplant skin for Mr. B to believe me, but you can, indeed eat the skin. 


Now, I know better than to expect picky, 2 year old Thomas to eat an eggplant shell stuffed with quinoa. But B and I like to try different foods that probably don’t appeal to most kids, and we want to expose our kids to lots of food so that one day, they won’t be annoying picky eaters (hopefully!). So, the rule at our house is you eat what’s served to you, you try everything, but you don’t have to finish it. But quinoa and eggplant’s a bit exotic for my veggie hating carbivore. So, when I cook something that I know will be a battle to get him to eat, I make his plate up of 2 – 3 tried and true foods (simple stuff I can throw together while our main food is cooking, I’m not taking orders or anything) he loves and a little bit of the new food. That way, we still eat together as a family, I’m not cooking totally different meals for him and we have success with the family rule (he’s served the sandwich, instead of refusing to eat what I put on his plate and then me making a sandwich after the fact), and dinner is enjoyable instead of a food battle – which I would never win. Sometimes he loves it, most of the time he doesn’t…but he tries it. That’s good enough for me for now.

Thomas’s rendition of our dinner: Quinoa & Eggplant, Almond Butter Sandwich and Strawberries.
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Meals for New Moms [Asian Turkey Meatballs]

We were amazed by the meal giving generosity of our friends after Nell was born. Neighbors we’d only talked to a few times were dropping dinners off, and when Nell was one week old my sorority sisters descended on us with bottles of wine and freezer meals. And can I say? I’m pretty unimaginative when it comes to meals for new moms – I always want to steer clear of the traditional lasagna, but I don’t know what will freeze well if its not going to be eaten immediately, so I usually end up giving yet another traditional lasagna. But we didn’t receive one lasagna. I took notes so that I can step up my game.

Our neighbor brought us Asian Turkey Meatballs, and I didn’t even have to ask for the recipe because I recognized it from one I’d earmarked to try on Pinterest. It hales from my go-to recipe blog The Girl Who Ate Everything, and it was such an unexpected meal to receive post baby – an Asian flair, turkey instead of chicken or ground beef, relatively healthy for my postpartum calorie counting self, and pretty much a combination of my favorite flavors ever. I made it again for our family last night, and thought I’d share with you all. As far as freezable goes, this probably isn’t the best – you could definitely freeze the meatballs, but the sauce is a key part of the meal, so this is probably best for someone who’s going to eat it that night.

Asian Turkey Meatballs via The Girl Who Ate Everything

Ingredients:

[Meatballs]
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used regular breadcrumbs, recipe calls for Panko)
1 1/4 lb lean ground turkey
1 egg
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

[Lime Dipping Sauce]
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons lime juice (I used fresh)
2 Tablespoons Water
1 scallion, chopped


Preheat the oven to 500°F. Mix all meatball ingredients together. Form large meatballs and place on a greased baking sheet (after soaking and spending a good 10 minutes scrubbing up my greased baking sheet last night, I’d also recommend foil).  Place meatballs on baking sheet, bake at 500°F until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Place meatballs in serving dish over rice, spoon a few tablespoons of dipping sauce over top. Place remainder of dipping sauce on table for delicious, sodium filled dipping. Love every second of it.


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Recipe Review: Buffalo Turkey Lettuce Wraps

I realize it’s been recipe central over here – I really do have rooms to share, I’m just waiting on finishing touches to arrive. I’ve been wanting very summery foods lately - chicken salad lettuce wraps,  keylime pie, strawberry shortcake – basically the girl who loves chocolate wants only fruity desserts. Who knows what that means. But B and I always love all things buffalo wing-like, too. So when I saw this recipe for Buffalo Turkey Lettuce Wraps on The Girl Who Ate Everything, I knew they’d be a hit all around. And they were. Light, delicious and satisfying – if you like wings, you’ll like these, I believe.

Buffalo Wing Turkey Lettuce Wraps via The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 lb lean ground turkey
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 cup carrot shavings
1 cup celery, diced
1 head iceberg lettuce, leaves removed for wraps
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo wing sauce
Blue cheese crumbles or blue cheese dressing to drizzle over the top (I used a tiny bit of both)

1. In a skillet, saute the onions over medium heat until soft, add garlic and cook for another minute. Add grown turkey and salt and pepper to taste, cook until cooked through and drain grease.

2. Return meat to pan and stir in the wing sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for a couple of minutes.

3. Place buffalo wing turkey meat into lettuce cups, top with a few carrot shavings and chopped celery. Sprinkle with some blue cheese crumbles and/or dressing.

Mr. B loved these – and he’s stingy with his food love declarations.

 
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Easy Mini Cheesecakes

I can’t believe I haven’t shared this recipe before, but I was making these for my book club yesterday and couldn’t find the recipe on the ol’ blog, so I figured it was well past time I shared it.  These are delicious, easy to make, and semi-not terrible for you if you practice moderation and use fat-free cream cheese (okay, they’re probably not great for you, but I justify that they’re still better than eating a slice of legit cheesecake).

You’ll need:
1 Box Vanilla wafers (You could substitute graham cracker crust here, but I’m lazy and honestly, the vanilla wafers do the same thing in about 1/16th the time).
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature (I buy fat-free blocks of cream cheese, you can go whole hog and buy real cream cheese, just don’t tell me, I suffer from metabolism envy.)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
Pie Filling, Pastry Filling, Preserves - sky’s the limit (my preference is raspberry pastry filling, but whatever floats your boat will work – blueberry, cherry, chocolate, caramel).

Place a vanilla wafer in the bottom of foil muffin liners. Mix cream cheese (make sure it’s at room temperature or you’ll get a lumpy mess), sugar, and vanilla until well blended. Add eggs and beat mixture together. Spoon into cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool and top with pie filling. Chill before serving. They’re delicious.

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