Where has the kitchen been?!

The short, easy answer is: moving.

I know, I know. The last update I gave was we lost a house in a bidding war, and then I proceeded to not mention it again. Shortly after that, another house fell into our laps. I was afraid to talk about it before it was happening – it seemed too good to be true! But, it did pan out.

About a month ago we sold our beautiful first home. I cried a lot as we left it – especially the kitchen that we’d so painstakingly redone.

We’ve spent the last month crashing on my mother-in-law’s couch – literately – while the sale of the new house went through and we had some flooring and painting done. We finally moved in about a week ago and I’ve been frantically unpacking and trying to get everyone adjusted to our new normal.

I had high hopes I’d blog through this, but to be total honest – the whole process overwhelmed me too much. I hated packing up the kitchen knowing it would be going to storage while we worked on everything. And without all of my kitchen toys at my disposal, I had a hard time getting motivated to cook. We did a lot of eating out and a lot of super simple meals. It’s life.

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On the good news side, we moved in about a week ago and the kitchen is 95% unpacked and functional. And, oh, have I been cooking. Starting the night after we moved in, I’ve cooked dinner nearly every night. I’ve been baking. I have plans to do some canning soon. Things have been good!

I have a whole bunch of fun stuff coming up on the blog soon – a cookbook preview, lots of new recipes, and a few fun events hosted by other bloggers. I appreciate you all sticking around during this unplanned hiatus, and I’m excited to be back in the game!

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Review: Cave Tools Blade Tenderizer

Disclosure: I received these products complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Officially spring! But, we still have snow on the ground. Can we talk about how disappointing that is? I’ve been pinning grilling recipes like crazy – but, to be honest, I’ve been surprised how much the grill tools have gotten use inside this winter.

Cave Tools recently sent me this blade tenderizer to try out, and once again, I was super impressed – they really design these to be easy to use! First up – storage: it comes with a great lid/case, to store it in – so you can’t accidently bump it in the cabinet and end up poking yourself with the blades. The whole thing is also top-rack dishwasher safe, which is amazing – it makes clean up so, so easy!

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We gave this a test run with the night’s chicken – the punctures let the marinade soak in so nicely. It was the juiciest chicken I’ve made in a long time! The extra step of tenderizing was worth the (minimal effort) – I can’t wait to try it on steaks!

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The Blade Tenderizer can be purchased from the Cave Tools website – use code TENDER15 to take 15% off. They can also be found on Amazon.

25 Meatless Meal Ideas for Lent #LentenDinner

Lent starts today, which means my annual Meatless Meals for Lenten Fridays series does too. You can check back here every Friday until Easter for a new, delicious meatless meal!

As I started working on this Ash Wednesday kick off post, I realized that I didn’t have many new meatless meals on the blog this year – and roughly half were pizza-related. In an effort to make things more well-rounded, I asked my blogger friends to share their favorite meatless meals, too. Below, you’ll find some from me and some from them – and plenty of variety to please everyone!

You can also check out my previous roundups – 16 Meatless Dinner Ideas for Lent, 16 More Meatless Dinner Ideas for Lent, 12 More Meatless Meal Ideas for Lent, and 9 More Meatless Meal Ideas for Lent for more ideas.

See you back here Friday for the first meatless Lenten dinner post of the year. (Spoiler alert: it’s pizza related. Of course.)

25 Meatless Meal Ideas for Lent

Meatless meal ideas from Kate’s RecipeBox:

Eggplant and Garlic Pizza

Florida Strawberry Pecan Pizza

Greek Pizza

Quinoa Pizza Burgers with Garlic Bread Buns

Enchilada Rice Skillet

Spanakopita Quesadillas

Cauliflower Nachos

Slow Cooker Vegetable Lasagna Soup

Pinto Bean Burritos

Meatless meals suggested by my blogger friends:

Spicy Quinoa Corn Chowder from Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations

A “Meaty” Stew from I Was Born to Cook

Golden Red Lentil Dal Saag from The Tiny Tyrant’s Kitchen

Huevos Rancheros Burgers from Joesin’ for Taste

Spring Greens Quiche from Faith, Hope, Love & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice

Mushroom Stroganoff from A Day in the Life on the Farm

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Carbonara from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

Bean Ragout and Crisped Mushrooms from Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Hearty Veggie Meatloaf from Simple and Savory

Falafel Waffles from Cooking with Carlee

Fried Lasagna from Jolene’s Recipe Journal

Warm Pasta Salad with Tomato and Zucchini from Book ‘n’ Cooks

Cauliflower Risotto with Asparagus and Mushrooms from Caroline’s Cooking

Healthy Vegetable Skillet Dinner from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings

Easy Vegetable Pot Pie with Fillo Crust from All that’s Jas

Vegetarian Chickpea, Carrot, Cilantro Curry Patty from Shockingly Delicious

Review: Cave Tools Metal Meat Claws

Disclosure: I received these products complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

It’s January and the weather has been struggling to get above freezing so you’d probably assume we haven’t been using grill tools much around here – but you’d be wrong.

Cave Tools sent these Metal Meat Claws for review, and I put them to use right away.

Cave Tools Meat Claws

These meat claws are sturdy, sharp and perfect for shredding meat – but that’s not their only use! I put them to the test on a big, 18 lb. ham.

The claws were sharp enough to easily pierce the ham so lifting it was a breeze. I could easily move it from the pan to the cutting board. It felt sturdy and I didn’t worry at all about dropping it. I usually shoo the kids out of the kitchen for this part – just in case – but you can tell from my photo bomber I didn’t have to do that with these claws.

Cave Tools Meat Claws 1

They’re also the perfect tool to hold the meat while you slice. Having the handle was so much more sturdy than just using a fork – and much more comfortable too. I had this carved up in no time!

Cave Tools Meat Claws 2

I was so impressed with how effective these are. They might not look overly special, but they really made things so much easier. I can’t wait to use them to shred up some pulled pork – it’s going to make such fast work of it!

The Metal Meat Claws can be purchased from the Cave Tools website – use code MEATCLAW15 to take 15% off. They can also be found on .

January Family Dinner Book Club – Teamwork

If you haven’t already heard of Family Dinner Book Club, let me introduce you! Every month,  Growing Book by Book, Chef Sarah Elizabeth, and Sunny Day Family get together and put together a suggested reading list, discussion guide, meal, and activities around a theme. As a book lover and mom, I think it’s such a brilliant (free!) resource for families – so we’ll be participating all year!

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January’s theme was “teamwork” and the featured book was Swimmy by Leo Lionni. This was the perfect book for our kiddos – age 1 and 3 – so we kicked off our family dinner book club by reading it all together.

Then, we worked on some things as a team to reinforce the theme of teamwork. We made vegetable stew for dinner – I cut everything up and then put the slow cooker crock on the floor and the filled cutting board on a stool and let the kids add all the ingredients to the pot. Mark moved the filled crock to the slow cooker and turned it on so we’d all have a hand in the dinner making process!

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We also worked as a team to create a table runner for dinner. This was done over a few days to let the paint dry in between. First up, we painted a long strip of paper in various blues to make the ocean.

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The next day we added life to our sea! We all helped to add seaweed, red fish (via a potato stamper), and some yellow urchins (via the end of the celery). Then Mark and I added some additional characters based on Jake’s suggestions: the big black fish, a lobster, a jellyfish, and, of course, Swimmy.

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Right before dinner, we tackled our family service project as a team. I settled on making utensil packets for our local soup kitchen because it was something that we could do inside (hello, January in NJ!) and it was on the kids’ level.

I started by putting a napkin in a zipper-top bag. Julie added a spoon. Jake added a fork. Mark added a knife and sealed up the bags. Our little assembly line cranked out just about 60 of them!

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After our service project, we sat down to dinner all together – a special event in itself because of Mark’s work hours and the kids’ schedules. Having everything decorated and a meal that we made together was awesome – and we spent the meal talking about teamwork. It was neat to see that even at 3, Jake could make connections between teamwork in the book and our activities.

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This was such an awesome, positive experience for our family. I’m so excited we finally dove in!

Details on February’s theme – persistence – were announced this morning. Will you be joining us for Family Dinner Book Club in February?

Best of 2017

I’m such a sucker for New Year’s – looking back, looking ahead.. it’s my favorite. I’m all about the resolutions and the recaps so you’re getting a blog recap of the year. This was, admittedly, not my most prolific blogging year. I’m still learning how to juggle having kids and having hobbies, but I love what went on here this year!

Best of the Blog

Starting off with the top five favorite reader posts of the year, judged by number of views. Some of these were my favorites of the year, too!

WhiteChocolateDippedGingerCookies

White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies were blogged this month, but they’re already a big blog favorite. It’s easy to see why – they’re gorgeous and easy!

IPPicadillio

This was the year everyone went Instant Pot crazy so it’s not surprising Instant Pot Picadillo made the list of most popular dishes for the year. This is one of my personal favorites, so if you’re looking for a recipe to break in that Instant Pot you got for Christmas, I’d recommend it!

TexasChili

Comfort food always gets a lot of hits around here, and Texas Style Chili was no exception. This quick and homey dish is perfect for winter weeknights!

RoastedSugarChocolateCake2

I’m thrilled to see Roasted Sugar Chocolate Cake make the list, because this was, hands down, my favorite dessert of the year. This cake is to die for!

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I made these Blueberry Muffins as part of #FoodBloggerLove, which introduced me to Chef Sarah Elizabeth and the Family Dinner Book Club – one of my favorite finds of the year. We’ll be doing the Family Dinner Book Club as a family starting in January, so I expect you’ll hear more of it from me!

Now, on to five favorite from me, in no particular order!

TripleChocolateCheesecake

This Triple Chocolate Cheesecake was what dreams are made of. If you’re a chocolate cheesecake fan, you need this in your life.

GreekPizzaDone

Greek Pizza is a quick, kid-friendly dinner that I just love. It’s super easy, easily customizable and vegetarian!

EverythingBagelCasserole

This Everything Bagel Casserole is probably the single best dish I blogged all year. It’s got #brunchgoals written all over it.

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My favorite list reflects what a chocoholic I am, but I had to include these Chocolate Marshmallows. Homemade marshmallows are good, but these are even better. They’ll take your hot cocoa to a whole other level!

GingerChocolateChipCookies

To round out this list, I have to include my new favorite Christmas cookies, Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies. These are so quintessentially Christmas!

What was the best thing you made this year?

Review: Cave Tools Aluminum Burger Press

Disclosure: I received these products complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Food blogger burger confession: unless I’m making some fancy burger, we typically buy frozen patties. (Gasp!) I know, I know. We’re under no illusions that the frozen burgers you get in the store are just as good as ones you make at home, but for me, burgers are usually a quick meal and trying to deal with getting uniform patties quickly is always a turn off.

And, I’ll fully admit, when I received this Aluminum Burger Press from Cave Tools to review, I thought this would go into my pile of cooking tools for special occasions. I was so, so wrong. I loved it so much that I immediately bought another to give as a Christmas gift!

BurgerPress1

This burger press is awesome. It helps you make uniform patties super quickly – and they include 200 burger papers which help immensely with cleanup.

The idea is easy – put a burger paper down, place your ball of ground meat on top, add another burger paper, and press down.

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The burger paper largely keeps the raw meat from touching the burger press – which makes it easier to wash! – and then makes it super easy to transfer the patties to a plate to be cooked.

Quick tip to stretch your burger papers: Once you’ve transferred a finished patty to a plate, you can peel off the top paper and use it (raw-meat side up) as the bottom paper for the next burger.

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We all relished the fresh-made burgers on a weeknight.  My next project is to try freezing my own burgers – with the press and the burger papers, I think it will be a breeze!

And who doesn’t want a quick and easy way to whip up burgers? (I’m not drooling – you’re drooling!)

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The Aluminum Burger Press can be purchased from the Cave Tools website – use code BURGER15 to take 15% off. They can also be found on Amazon.

Review: Cave Tools Rib Roast Rack

Disclosure: I received these products complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

If you’ve been thinking about packing away your grill for the winter – think again! I mean, I get it. It’s now dark at 5 pm and the days are getting chillier, but if you’re planning a holiday meal – especially for a crowd – you should at least consider utilizing the grill.

Cooking your main dish – like a ham or turkey – on the grill will free up your oven for so many other sides and desserts!

Cave Tools sent me their Rib Roast Rack to try out and it’s beautifully simply. This sturdy rack is the perfect way to roast a chicken, turkey or ham on your grill. It’s big enough for a large bird – the one shown below clocked in at 20 pounds! – but the bars are close enough together to easily hold a smaller piece of meat. I’ve never used something like this before, and in my head, I’d have to worry about the rack legs slipping through the grill grates – but that wasn’t the case at all. This was totally stable on our grill.

It’s also lightweight – which is a huge plus when you’re hauling an already-heavy chunk of meat out the grill. When flipped over, the it can also be used as a rib rack and will hold up to five racks of ribs!

CaveToolsGrillRack

I’m still on the hunt for the perfect grilled turkey recipe (while the rack did not fail us, the recipe I attempted definitely did!) – but I can’t wait to use this for my favorite Grilled Ham with a Wine-Pineapple-Honey Glaze. I’m also imagining a nice, smoky pork loin or a chicken covered with olive oil and Herbs de Provence. Oh, the possibilities!

And, something that always seals the deal for me – cleanup was a breeze. Like many other Cave Tools products, this rack is dishwasher safe.

The Rib Roast Rack can be purchased from the Cave Tools website – use code RIBROAST15 to take 15% off. They can also be found on Amazon.

Here we go! It’s #choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar!

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Today is one of my favorite days of the year, because it is the official start of #Choctoberfest. This is the third annual food blogger celebration of all things chocolate, made possible thanks to our gold sponsor, Imperial Sugar, and the other sponsors listed below.

Over 70 bloggers are participating in #Choctoberfest 2017 and will be posting 200+ chocolate recipes over the next week. Keep your eyes peeled, visit any of the blogs listed below, or use the #Choctoberfest hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to follow along. You can also check out our #Choctoberfest Pinterest board, where we post chocolate recipes all year long.

You can also enter to win our #Choctoberfest prize pack. Thank to our amazing sponsors who are contributing the following items for the prize:

  • $100 gift card to Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table from our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar
  • 1 case of granulated white sugar (40 pounds), 1 case of light brown sugar (24 pounds), 1 case of dark brown sugar (24 pounds), and 1 case of powdered sugar (24 pounds) from our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar
  • 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 Barlean’s
  • 300-piece Lindt LINDOR Truffles gift bag (you choose the flavors!) from blog sponsors The PinterTest Kitchen

This prize pack is valued at over $450! To enter, simply follow participating sponsors and bloggers using the below giveaway widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stay tuned to see the delicious recipes bloggers have cooked up using Imperial Sugar and Barlean’s products. Thank you also to Davis Chocolate and Rodelle for being #Choctoberfest shoutout sponsors! Watch Instagram and Facebook to find out more about about their chocolate products.

Here is a complete list of all the bloggers participating in #Choctoberfest 2017, so you can see the recipes they are posting throughout the week:

The PinterTest KitchenFix Me a Little LunchSavory MomentsCrumbs in my MustachioHouse of Nash EatsBake It With LoveThat RecipeHardly A GoddessCooking With CarleeA Kitchen Hoor’s AdventuresBody RebootedCindy’s Recipes and WritingsThe Redhead BakerFaith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered AccompliceSweet CoraliceSeduction in The KitchenCooks&Books&RecipesEveryday EileenUnder My Apple TreeFamily Around The TableBottom Left of the MittenThe Spiffy CookieFairyburgerJoin Us, Pull up a ChairJonesin’ For TasteJane’s Adventures in DinnerTake Two TapasJennifer BakesThe Unlikely BakerHostess At HeartKaren’s Kitchen StoriesKate’s Recipe BoxKelly Lynns Sweets and TreatsWildflour’s Cottage KitchenChocolate SlopesLittle House Big AlaskaMakes, Bakes and Decor2 Cookin MamasThat Skinny Chick Can BakeBooks n’ CooksMildly MeanderingLiving IdeasRestless ChipotleGet the Good Stuff!The Weekday GourmetAn Affair from the HeartWest Via MidwestCookie Dough and Oven MittThe Bitter Side of SweetCookaholic WifeDaily Dish RecipesFor the Love of FoodThe Saucy SouthernerCook’s HideoutBy the PoundsTramplingrose: Cooking, Baking & Ranting in Small-Town South DakotaSarah Cooks the BooksChef Sarah ElizabethFantastical Sharing of RecipesSarah’s Bake StudioThe Pajama ChefFrankly EntertainingLong Distance BakingPalatable PastimeThe Freshman CookThe Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine ♥ A Day in the Life on the FarmWendy PolisiTampa Cake GirlMy Southern Sweet ToothCanning and Cooking at HomeFull Belly SistersSuperSizeGuy.comOur Good LifeThe Life Jolie

 

Welcome to #CookoutWeek 2017!

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Get those grills fired up… because it’s #CookoutWeek 2017! This week, I’m joining forces with over 40 food blogger friends to bring you delicious recipes perfect for every backyard BBQ, picnic, summer party, or cookout.

We also have a fabulous giveaway featuring products from the brands who have made #CookoutWeek possible! You can enter below to win:

  • From blog host The PinterTest Kitchen: $100 Amazon gift card, to use to buy all the supplies you need for your next cookout
  • From our sponsor The French Farm: A gift pack of gourmet products hand-crafted by small businesses and using only the finest ingredients – La Favorita Genovese Pesto, Caprichos del Guadalquivir Cadenera Orange Marmalade, and L’Abeille Occitane Lavender Honey
  • From our sponsor Smokin’-Os: A sampler pack of their “smokin’-os” wood rings, to help you add wood-fired, smokey taste to your grilled foods, even if you don’t own a smoker
  • From our sponsor Primal Kitchen: $200 of Primal Kitchen goodies, including condiments made with avocado oil and bars and shakes with grass-fed collagen
  • From our sponsor Langers Juice Company: Your choice of 10 bottles of Langers Juice, with flavors including traditional Apple and Grape, as well as interesting mixes such as Pineapple Orange Coconut, Cranberry Blood Orange, and Mango Peach
  • From our sponsor True Made Foods: A 3-bottle sampler pack of sauces with real flavors made from real vegetables and less sugar – Ketchup, BBQ, and Veracha

This prize pack has an ARV of over $400! You have until July 1 at 11:59 PM to enter by following our sponsors and bloggers on social media:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stay tuned… remember, throughout the week, all of the participating bloggers will be posting delicious cookout recipes. Here are all the bloggers who are part of #CookoutWeek 2017:

The PinterTest Kitchen2 Cookin MamasA Day in the Life on the FarmA Kitchen Hoor’s AdventuresAmy’s Cooking AdventuresAshees CookbookBaking SenseBody RebootedBottom Left of the MittenChef Sarah ElizabethCook’s HideoutCookaholic WifeCooking with SapanaEat, Drink, Be Healthy!FairyburgerFaith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered AccompliceFamily Around the TableFix Me a Little LunchFor the Love of FoodFull Belly SistersHezzi-D’s Books and CooksHome Sweet HomesteadJoin Us, Pull up a ChairKate’s Recipe BoxKelly Lynn’s Sweets and TreatsLittle House Big AlaskaMy Southern Sweet ToothOur Good LifeOven Tales By SyamaPalatable PastimeRants From My Crazy KitchenSavory MomentsSeduction in the KitchenSidewalk ShoesThat RecipeThe Freshman CookThe Mad Scientists KitchenThe Pajama ChefThe Redhead BakerThe Saucy SouthernerThe Spiffy CookieThe Weekday GourmetTramplingroseTurnips 2 TangerinesUncle Jerry’s Kitchen

As one of the bonus entries in the giveaway, leave a comment on this blog post… what is your favorite dish to eat at a cookout?