I am not a huge blondie person. I’m a brownie person. These are qualities that are determined early and not likely to change. However, I made Bourbon Brownies twice in the last few weeks and was tired of them, so I decided to make something else crowd and finger friendly, for a Labor Day weekend BBQ at a good friend and neighbor’s house. (Hi Kelly!)
Ina Garten says she’s not a baker, but I find that with her large group recipes, she really gets it right, where as the billion of Martha Stewart dessert recipes can be time-consuming. These are easy – meaning hard to mess up – and delicious even to brownie-preferrers like me. They really are like a chocolate-chip cookie made into a bar. Chewy and with a great crust. Try them!
In an effort to eat fewer carbs but still eat cheesy comfort food for dinner, I made Elana’s Pantry Keto Mac & Cheese Skillet Casserole. If you haven’t been to Elana’s Pantry, her website is a treasure trove of low-carb, low-sugar, Paleo and Keto recipes. This casserole with a salad is a perfect comfort dinner for any night of the week, and it got Sol’s approval!
Malcolm turned 2 on May 14 and making his cake was a really fun endeavor! I wanted to make something large enough to feed a bunch of family, friends, and neighbors, and something that Malcolm would recognize and love. My birthday cake when I turned 2 was an amazing Big Bird cake that my mom lovingly hand piped! She made this from a mold, which are actually hard to find now – I looked for a mold for The Count from Sesame Street and only found used ones on Ebay for $50!
What an incredible Mom, right? I have a lot to live up to.
These are the images I found online (I absolutely should be crediting these, and will go back to try to find their sources, but I just took screenshots with my phone.)
I also didn’t want to do fondant because 1) I have no experience with fondant and 2) I don’t love the way it tastes. I couldn’t decide between The Count, Cookie Monster, and Elmo, so I did all 3! I did The Count cake the night before Malcolm’s party, with Sol’s parents and Aunt Connie, and a 2 tier, butter/vanilla cake and vanilla buttercream layer, and chocolate cake/chocolate buttercream layer. It turned out pretty well!
It was a great day! The cake was definitely a labor of love (about 12 hours worth, including hammering a piping tip into what I needed for “fur”) and was just one more example to me of how you can’t understand how much your parents love you until you experience loving your own child!
Spinach & Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Roasted Cauliflower
Another new favorite that Malcolm also loves. For the roasted cauliflower, I split it into chunks and roast with olive oil and salt at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes. If you haven’t tried roasting cauliflower yet, you must! It’s delicious!
Yep, just boiled it and slathered some marinara on it.
Turkey and Pork Meatloaf with Roasted Sweet Potato Fries and Broccoli
Meatloaf isn’t my favorite but Sol loves it. He asks for it every week (jokingly, I think.) This time I was really happy with how it turned out, and I basically combined the beloved Lipton French Onion Soup mix recipe from my childhood with a more savory (read: less ketchup) recipe from Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) that I think is awfully time-consuming for a meatloaf. It’s a restaurant recipe so that may explain the time; they likely make a very large batch in advance. I used our Ground Pork from Hasselmann Farms and regular ol’ ground turkey from the grocery store – I like to use 2 lbs of meat so we have leftovers. I’ll get the AKA recipe up here soon! For the sweet potato fries, cut the sweet potatoes into large steak fries, and roast, with broccoli, lightly covered in olive oil, at 400-425 degrees for at least 30 minutes if not more. The broccoli may not need as much time; I much prefer it roasted.
This was a crazy weekend because Sol was in Phoenix, Malcolm didn’t feel great Sunday, so I didn’t get the shopping done, and Sol did it Monday on his day off. Yes, that is enough to constitute a “crazy” weekend for me. Nonetheless, a couple days (er weeks) late, here are that week’s meals!
Pimiento Cheese BLTs
These are inspired by the incredible, salty, cheesy, bacon-y, super-fresh pimiento cheese BLTs at Merritt’s in Chapel Hill, NC. I really wasn’t much of a pimiento cheese fan (horrors!) until having this sandwich. It is also a top favorite of Sol’s. I love making the pimiento cheese at home so I can make it to taste. Here’s a great base recipe, be sure to update it to your liking! Then just stack the ingredients – I love using thick-cut bacon and baking it at 375 rather than dealing with a greasy mess on the stove-top. And, I just toast the bread, so there’s really not much “cooking” at all. This is also a great summer recipe.
Anna Kate’s Pimiento Cheese
Ingredients 1 CUP shredded cheddar cheese
1 CUP shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
2/3 CUP mayonnaise
1 TBSP dijon mustard
1 small jar pimientos, drained
Hot sauce to taste
Combine, taste, and enjoy! I like a lot of hot sauce, and I don’t use salt and pepper due to that, but you can always add salt and pepper to taste, remembering that cheese has a lot of sodium.
Shrimp Fried Rice
I liked my one-off meal so much I decided to make it for all of us! Malcolm loves rice too. Just increase the amounts for each item and add more veggies!
Fried Pork Chops, Stewed Cinnamon Apples, & Roasted Broccoli I’m using my incredible, 3/4″ thick pork chops from Hasselmann Farm for this meal. I haven’t used a recipe for pork chops in a while, but have probably referenced a few, as well as remembering how my Mom made them, as these are a favorite of hers! For the apples, I’ll just peel and soften them on the stove-top in some lemon water, and add cinnamon and sugar if they’re too tart. Here are a couple recipes if you prefer more guidance. And for the broccoli, please know that every vegetable is better roasted than boiled. Every. Single. One. Okay, maybe not peas, but you get my point. I like to coat lightly in olive oil and roast at 400 for at least 20-25 minutes. Recipe later!
Grilled Ham & Broccoli Rabe Sandwiches
I love this Martha Stewart recipe – once you get it down it’s fairly easy and the combined flavors are amazing. I love fig jam and could eat it with a spoon. I always by Bonne Maman brand when it’s on sale.
Ina Garten’s Fresh Corn Salad This is another go-to, especially when it’s warm outside and basil is plentiful. I’ll often add chopped grape tomatoes or bacon when I have it on hand. Delicious!
Sol was out of town this past weekend and I made a few quick meals just for me. One of those was Shrimp Fried Rice, which is so easy to make with leftover rice. I love making fried rice at home because I can make exactly as much as I want, and it’s perfectly crispy and hot, unlike rice that’s been in a take-out container. Here’s my easy personal recipe; adjust it to your taste and add tofu, chicken, or more veggies!
Quick & Easy Shrimp Fried Rice
1-2 TBSP oil (sesame oil is great, otherwise vegetable/canola oil, olive oil, or even coconut oil would work)
1 CUP day-old rice (Really, don’t use just-made rice. It won’t crisp up enough. I often make extra rice at dinner so that I know there will be leftovers.)
5 Pre-cooked shrimp
1/4 CUP frozen peas
3-4 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce
Sriracha to taste
Heat half of oil on medium in a small frying pan. Add egg and cook gently, until just firm. (Don’t overcook.) Remove egg and place in bowl you will eat in. There’s no need to dirty an extra bowl, people!
Heat remaining oil in pan on medium. Add rice and spread across the pan. Allow to cook UNDISTURBED for 2-3 minutes, until rice is crispy. Turn rice once and cook for 2-3 minutes on the other side.
Add peas, soy sauce, and shrimp; stir and warm shrimp through, 2-3 minutes more. Add cooked egg, mix. Return to bowl, sprinkle (or douse) with Sriracha, and eat immediately!
Writing this blog has made me realize how carb-heavy and dense our dinners are. I do try to eat lighter during the day so we can have a satisfying, tummy-filling dinner together at night, but there is clearly a dearth of vegetables here and we need to do better. This is why I’m writing the blog though, to figure out the good and the bad! Something we could use more of is a vegetable side salad I made this week from Saveur, Cannellini Bean Salad with Radicchio and Celery. It is crisp and bright and easy to substitute if you don’t have everything. I used fresh lemon juice in place of the red wine vinegar and skipped the anchovies (even though I have them, next time I’ll try them.) I really enjoy dishes like this but rarely take the time to make them. A good reminder.