Lunch for Busy Days #MealPrepMadness

Lunch has become the most difficult meal of the day for me. Jake needs to eat at 11:30 or we start running into hangry, I-need-a-nap territory. And if we have anything going on in the morning, it’s hard to be home and get it on the table before the meltdowns start. Add in a newborn who wants to be fed/changed/cuddled and I was ready to rip my hair out – not to mention the fact that I’d end up just eating whatever I could shove in my face fastest. So not ideal.

I ended up buying these containers on Amazon and they’ve become our “lunch boxes”. They don’t snap tight, but since we’re usually eating lunch at home and  don’t transport them, that’s fine for us.


I fill them up with whatever leftovers we need to use up first. This week it was some broccoli salad, chopped salad and breadsticks. Then, I fill in with other stuff. Jake’s lunches (bottom row) are often deconstructed – bread with rolled-up cold cuts is a favorite. I’ve been sticking with sandwiches or salads.

It’s working out well. When they’re pre-made, it’s easy to pop one out of the refrigerator for Jake as soon as we walk in the door and it’s been keeping me from grabbing junk food to fill me up instead of making myself a meal. A win all around!

Our Toddler Snack Bin #MealPrepMadness

One of the things I struggled with right after Julie was born was snack time for Jake. It seemed like every time I sat down to nurse her, he’d start begging for a snack. And, oh, the meltdown if I grabbed the wrong snack!

My solution was to make him his own snack bin. I filled it with pre-portioned snacks I was okay with him helping himself to.

Here’s what’s in the snack basket this week:


The snacks in plastic bags are ones we buy in bulk. It takes me just a few minutes to grab a handful and add them to the bags – and is way easier than trying to get Jake not to eat an entire 1 lb. bag of yogurt raisins.

Here’s what everything looks like in the basket:


The basket lives on the lowest shelf in our pantry. Jake can open the pantry to get to the snacks on his own, but 90% of the time he still needs help opening the packaging. This is proving to be the best of both worlds – he feels like he’s in control, but he still brings it to be before eating so I can monitor.

How do you handle kid snacks at your house?

Stocking the Freezer Pre-Baby, Take 2 #MealPrepMadness

Two years ago when Jake was born, we stocked the freezer with dinners we could throw together. It worked amazing so we knew we’d do it again – but this time, I had a different approach.

With Jake, we were only feeding ourselves – so I could wait until my husband came home from work if the baby was fussy or I wasn’t feeling it. That just doesn’t fly when you have a toddler that wants to eat at 5 pm on the dot so this time I concentrated on meals that I could pull out of the freezer and pop right into the oven or slow cooker.

It’s worked really well. I’m still finding a chance to make dinner 2-3 nights a week but it’s been so nice to have the freezer stash for nights that are a disaster!


Here’s what we had in the freezer when Julie was born:

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
Oven Fajitas
Cheddar Ranch Chicken Thighs
Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
Creamy Chicken Taquitos
Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Roast
Slow Cooker Hawaiian Hula Pork
Chicken Potstickers
Spinach Prosciutto Lasagna
Taco Stuffed Shells

We also loaded up on bags of veggies and rice that we could throw in the microwave and a few frozen meals from Trader Joes. And, of course, Girl Scout Cookies.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes #Choctoberfest

The last two weeks have been quite busy around here. Yesterday, I was celebrating being done and having some room to breathe. I got up and made these pancakes as a hooray-we-made-it-to-Friday celebration.

And then realized as I was setting the table it was Thursday. Only Thursday.

On the up side, these pancakes were a delicious consolation – and you guys get one more #Choctoberfest recipe than I was planning on blogging!


Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes
(adapted from Give Recipe)
Serves 3

1 egg
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups flour
4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp. butter
Whipped cream, optional
Fresh raspberries, optional

In a bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar until creamy. Whisk in milk and vegetable oil until well combined and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

In a frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook the pancakes in batches. Serve with whipped cream and fresh raspberries.

Coconut Oil Brownies #Choctoberfest

For Choctoberfest, I also received some products to try from Barlean’s. These were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.


One of the products they sent was Butter Flavored Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is a great substitute for butter in baking, and butter flavored coconut oil is especially fantastic. Using it is a fantastic way to whip up dairy-free baked goods, like these brownies.

They’re chewy and fudgy and exactly what you want out of a brownie.


Coconut Oil Brownies
(from Pinch of Yum)
Makes 1 9×9″ pan

3/4 cup butter flavored coconut oil
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a double boiler, melt the coconut oil and chocolate together. Once totally melted and combined, remove from heat and whisk in the brown sugar. Whisk in the eggs, until the batter thickens. Stir in the salt and flour until just combined.

Pour into a 9×9″ baking pan and bake for 25 minutes. There may be some oil remaining on the top or sides – it will be absorbed as the brownies cool. Let cool overnight before slicing.

Chocolate-Chili Rubbed Brisket Sliders with Chocolate BBQ Sauce #Choctoberfest

The other product I received from Caveman Coffee Co to try out was their Sabertooth Roast Coffee. (You can check out what I made with their Cacao Butter in yesterday’s post.) Again, the product was complimentary, but all opinions are my own.


Today, I wanted to go savory. Because if you can swing having chocolate for dinner, you totally should. I started with a chocolate bbq sauce. It’s is spicy with a touch of sweetness and the chocolate gives it a nice smooth, thick texture.


Then, I made a chocolate-chili spice rub and used it to crust a brisket. After slow cooking the brisket, I shredded it and served it on sliders, topped with the bbq sauce. They were delicious.

Chocolate Chili Rubbed Brisket Sliders with Chocolate BBQ Sauce
(adapted from this and this, both from Saveur)
Makes 18 sliders

For the bbq sauce:

2 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup brewed Sabertooth Roast Coffee
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Pinch of cayenne

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in remaining ingredients and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

For the chocolate-chili rub:

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. dried mustard
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.

To make the brisket:

Chocolate BBQ Sauce
Chocolate-Chili Rub
2-3 lb. beef brisket
18 slider rolls

In a slow cooker, add 1 cup of bbq sauce to coat the bottom of the crock. Rub the brisket generously with several tablespoons of chocolate-chili rub. Place the brisket in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove and shred. Serve on rolls, topped with additional bbq sauce.


Dark Chocolate Halloween Bark #Choctoberfest

One of the things I love about these blogging events is that they tend to push me out of my comfort zone. When I signed up for a Choctoberfest, I was imaging lots of chocolate goodies. Making my own chocolate, though? It never crossed my mind. But when Caveman Coffee Co sent a package of Cacao Butter that was exactly what I found myself doing. I did receive the product free to try, but all opinions are my own.


The process of making chocolate was actually surprisingly easy. I opted for a dark chocolate version – my favorite! – and dressed it up a bit for Halloween. ‘Tis the season and all.

I loved everything about this – especially that I could control the sweetness. I see a lot of DIY chocolate bark in my future!


Dark Chocolate Halloween Bark
(adapted from Minimalist Baker)
Makes 1 pan

1 cup cacao butter, divided
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
Candy corn, optional
Sprinkles, optional

Line a baking pan with parchment an set aside.

In a double boiler over medium heat, melt 1 cup cacao butter. Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in maple syrup until thoroughly combined. Once completely combined, whisk in cocoa powder and vanilla. Taste and add more syrup if needed. Pour onto prepared baking pan.

Add candy corn and sprinkles between ghosts. Refrigerate until set – at least an hour and a half. Once completely cooled and set, break into pieces.

Welcome to #Choctoberfest 2016! + Enter to win an awesome prize pack


Here we go – it’s #Choctoberfest 2016!

#Choctoberfest is a virtual event put together by The PinterTest Kitchen. Bloggers from around the world will be posting their favorite chocolate recipes, and you’ll get a chance to win some awesome prizes. What’s not to love? I’m so excited to be jumping in on the fun this year!

Thank you to the sponsors who make #Choctoberfest possible! This year, Imperial Sugar is back as our Gold Sponsor. They have been a trusted name in kitchens since 1843, and their website is home to thousands of sweet recipes tested in the Imperial Sugar Kitchen. You can find Imperial Sugar on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube, or join their Sweet Community so you can share your own recipes, save recipes to a virtual inbox, print Imperial Sugar coupons, and connect with other sugar lovers.

Imperial Sugar and our silver sponsors have banded together to offer a huge #Choctoberfest prize pack, which you can enter to win below! One lucky winner will be chosen at random to receive the following:

  • From our Gold Sponsor Imperial Sugar: 1 case of granulated sugar (40 pounds), 1 case of brown sugar (24 pounds), 1 case of dark brown sugar (24 pounds), 1 case of powdered sugar (24 pounds bags), and an Imperial Sugar red ruffle apron
  • From our Silver Sponsor Nature Nate’s: 32 oz. Raw & Unfiltered Honey bottle, Honey Syrup, Honey Packets, a Nature Nate’s T-shirt, various kitchen supplies, and $50 Amazon gift card
  • From our Silver Sponsor Barlean’s: 16 oz Barlean’s Butter-Flavored Coconut Oil, 9.52 oz canister of Chocolate Silk Greens, and 8oz bottle of Essential Women Omega-Swirl Chocolate Mint
  • From our Silver Sponsor Caveman Coffee: 1 Bag of Coffee (you choice of blacklisted or sabertooth), 1 coconut MCT oil, and 1 Cacao Butter
  • From #Choctoberfest blog hosts The PinterTest Kitchen: 1 specialty chocolate gift pack (your choice of dark or milk chocolate), 1 tin (14 ounces) drinking chocolate, and Divine’s Fair Trade Gift Set

Enter now to win our #Choctoberfest 2016 prize pack! We’ll be picking a winner at random winner on Saturday, Oct. 22, so enter by next Friday to make sure your name is in the drawing:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s a list of all of the bloggers participating in #Choctoberfest 2016. Visit any of their blogs to get delicious chocolate recipes throughout the week:

The PinterTest Kitchen2 Cookin’ MamasA Kitchen Hoor’s Adventuresaddicted 2 recipesAmy’s Cooking AdventuresAn Affair From The HeartBalancing MotherhoodBody RebootedBottom Left of the MittenBy the PoundsCanning and Cooking at HomeCoconut & LimeCook with 5 KidsCook’s HideoutCookaholic WifeCooking with CarleeCopyKat RecipesCricket’s ConfectionsCrumbs in my MustachioElisabeth JeanFairyburgerFaith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered AccompliceFamily Around the TableFantastical Sharing of RecipesFeed Your Soul TooFeeding BigFrankly EntertainingFull Belly SistersGet the Good StuffGrumpy’s HoneybunchHezzi-D’s Books and CooksHostess At HeartInk and SugarJane’s Adventures in DinnerJoin Us, Pull Up a ChairKaren’s Kitchen AdventuresKate’s Recipe BoxKudos Kitchen by ReneeKylee CooksLetz EatLife CurrentsLife on Food Making MiraclesMonica’s TableMoore or Less Cooking Food BlogMy Catholic KitchenMy Gluten Free MiamiOur Good LifePalatable PastimeRestless ChipotleSeduction in The KitchenSew You Think You Can CookSimple Food 365Southern With A TwistSumptuous SpoonfulsTake Two TapasTampa Cake GirlTeaspoon of GoodnessThat RecipeThe Crumby CupcakeThe FlavouristaThe Food Hunter’s Guide To CuisineThe Freshman CookThe Pajama ChefThe Redhead BakerThe Spiffy CookieTramplingroseWildflour’s Cottage KitchenZesty South Indian Kitchen

I hope you’ll check back here for some great chocolate goodies this week – and don’t forget to follow our sponsors and bloggers using the Rafflecopter giveaway widget above for your chance to win our sweet prize pack!

Are you a fellow food blogger who wants to get involved with events like #Choctoberfest? Sign up here to get notifications when they happen from The PinterTest Kitchen.

Crispy Parmesan Garlic Chicken


Julie’s now 7 weeks old and I’m just getting into enough of a rhythm with the kids that I can actually stand over the stove and cook some nights. Up until this point, dinner has been something I can throw in the crockpot or oven between diaper changes. It’s been nice to do some hands-on cooking for a change!

Still, dinners haven’t been anything too involved – this easy, one-pan meal was a recent favorite. I added a loaf of crusty bed and dinner was on the table in a half hour. Mom win!


Crispy Parmesan Garlic Chicken
(from The Recipe Critic)
Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, cut in half and slightly pounded out
8 Tbsp. butter, divided
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium zucchini, coin-sliced

In a large skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat.

In the microwave, melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, whisk together the bread crumbs, 1/2 cup parmesan and flour. Coat the chicken in the butter then in the bread crumb mixture and add to the skillet.

Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until chicken is cooked through and the breading is golden. Remove chicken to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining butter to the skillet. When melted, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add in the zucchini and cook until tender. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Add the chicken back and cook until heated through.

Peanut Butter Apple Baked Oatmeal

I love apple season! We did a family trip to the orchard for some apple picking a few weeks ago and since then I’ve been making apple everything – applesauce, buttermilk custard apple pie, and this oatmeal were the first few kitchen projects post-trip.

This oatmeal was great – and just screams fall to me!



Peanut Butter Apple Baked Oatmeal
(from Two Peas and Their Pod)
Serves 6

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 3/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 apples, diced

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8 baking dish.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, applesauce and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the oats and stir to combine.

Add in the peanut butter and mix until well combined. Fold in apples.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until set and golden. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.