My most vivid memories of my grandfather revolve around what he was baking for us. He was German and worked in a bakery and made the most beautiful, delicious treats. After he retired to Florida, he’d send up big boxes of Christmas cookies every year. BIG boxes. Like, 20 lbs. of Christmas cookies. These gingerbread cookies were always my favorite.
I shared these with a few of my fellow food bloggers during an early cookie swap last month, I figured that if they routinely survived the trip from Florida to New Jersey, they’d be the perfect cookie to mail.
(a family recipe)
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen
16 oz. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
6 1/4 oz. light brown sugar
6 oz. butter
5 1/2 oz. unsweetened molasses
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the molasses and egg until well combined. Mix in the spices.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out and cutting into shapes.
Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes.
Raise your hand if you bought an Instant Pot on Black Friday! I’m guessing there are quite a few of you because the requests for IP recipes have pretty much tripled in the last week.
I grabbed an Instant Pot a few months ago and I’ve been loving it for quick side dishes but I’ve been slow to use it for meals. That’s changing, though, as I’m forever forgetting to throw things in the slow cooker as planned. Mom brain is real, you guys.
This chicken was one of my first main dishes in the IP and man, was it a winner. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. We paired it with Hibachi Style Noodles and roasted broccoli for a great dinner.
Instant Pot Brown Sugar & Garlic Chicken
(from Once a Month Meals)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lemon lime soda
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. black pepper
Place chicken in the Instant Pot. Mix remaining ingredients together in a small ball and pour over the chicken. Cook on manual for 15 minutes, then release the pressure and serve.
Two days until Thanksgiving! I know you’re probably buried in turkey brine and pie recipes, so I wanted to put something a little different up – something to help you use up your leftovers.
Mashed potatoes are something we always seem to have a ton of and this is a great way to use some of them up. These waffles are super simple but are different enough that you don’t feel like you’re eating leftover again.
Leftover Mashed Potato Waffles
(from Just a Taste)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
3 Tbsp. chopped scallions
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Sour cream, optional for serving
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk and eggs until well combined. Mix in mashed potatoes until well combined. Stir in the scallions and cheese.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the potato mixture and stir until just combined.
Spoon 2/3 cup of the mixture evenly into a preheated waffle iron sprayed with non-stick spray. Cook until golden brown. Serve topped with sour cream.
The latest round of the Improv Cooking Challenge was Nuts and Caramel – so perfect as we’re going into the holiday season! I decided on a fun dish that could be either an appetizer or dessert – perfect for a holiday potluck or to make and give to friends and family.
This snack mix is a super easy thing to make, even when you’re pressed for time. I added red and green M&Ms to make it festive for a holiday, but you could switch up the colors for any special occasion!
You can see the other Nuts and Caramel dishes bloggers cooked up here:
Caramel Nut Chex Mix
(from Butter With a Side of Bread)
3/4 cup corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 box corn Chex
2 cups salted mixed nuts
2 cups M&Ms
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
Combine the corn syrup, brown sugar and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 1 minute intervals until the butter is melted. Whisk to combine.
In a roasting pan, combine the Chex and mixed nuts. Pour the sugar mixture over and stir to coat.
Bake for 1 hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and stir as it cools – don’t let it just sit, it’ll become one big block! When cool, stir in M&Ms.
Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post but the opinions expressed are my own.
This sign hangs in our house always. It’s a constant reminder of our family values and what we’re striving to be. We’ve always held this in our words and actions, but lately we’ve been working harder at doing this with our money, too, and trying to shop with companies that honor the same values. UncommonGoods is one of these companies.
I’ve been a fan of UncommonGoods for years – they’re stocked with quirky gifts for all kinds of people. Browsing their site is seriously like a rabbit hole for me – one I get started time just slips away. But, they’re so much more than off-beat gifts. They are a company that does good. Their lowest-paid workers start at 50% above the minimum wage. About a third of their products include recycled elements. With every purchase, they will donate $1 to the charity partner of your choice. On every front, they’re doing good. So good, in fact, that they are a certified B Corporation – meaning they’re using the power of their business to solve social and environmental problems. I’ll definitely be shopping with them this year, so I wanted to share a few gift ideas for the holidays.
To Stuff Your Stocking
I feel like I’m always scrambling to find stocking stuffers at the last minute but UncommonGoods has so many fun ideas for things to stuff your stocking with. Trying to promote kindness in your home? They have an adorable, interactive kit for that. Want to get people to put down their phones and talk at the dinner table? They’ve got plenty of conversation starters to choose from. Constantly undecided about what to make for dinner? Toss the dice and get creative!
For the Hard-to-Buy-For Guy
If you have a husband who has everything and wants nothing (like mine!) UncommonGoods will surely have something he didn’t realize he needed in his life. For the musically inclined, I’m obsessed with this punch that makes your own guitar picks. Travelers would love this organizer for trip mementos. Baseball fans would flip for cuff links made from their favorite stadium’s seats. They even have display boards that turn your beer bottle caps into art!
For the Foodie (aka, my wishlist!)
Of course, I’m always drawn to the kitchen items. The sentimental fool in my loves their take on the family cookbook. They also have the cutest measuring spoons I’ve ever seen. This table runner would be so much fun for dinner parties with kids. This produce keeper is beautiful and super functional. And I can’t help but covet the amazing wine glasses they have, especially the ones designed to play a musical scale.
See? Super fun stuff. I’m betting if you clicked on any of those links, you’ve found something you loved. And while there are so, so many things I love, what I love most is that when I buy them, I’m supporting a good company.
I really love spinach and artichoke dip, so I think the idea of turning it into dinner is brilliant. I mean, yes, you can eat spinach and artichoke dip for dinner, but putting it over chicken breasts just seems way more adult.
The warm, cheesy sauce is pretty much begging to be sopped up with a piece of warm, crusty bread. So perfect for fall!
Skillet Chicken with Creamy Spinach Artichoke Sauce
(slightly adapted from Cooking Classy)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. flour
5 oz. fresh spinach, chopped
14 oz. artichoke quarters, drained and chopped
4 oz. cream cheese, diced
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup sour cream
Pound the chicken to about 1/2″ thickness and season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil to shimmering. Cook the chicken for about 10 minutes, turning halfway, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.
In the same skillet, melt the butter then stir in the garlic and flour. Cook for 30 seconds, then add in spinach and artichokes. Cook for another minute, until the spinach is wilted. Pour in the milk and scrape up any browned bits from the pan. Add in the three cheese and cook, stirring constantly, until melted. Stir in the sour cream and then return the chicken to the skillet.
Jake’s new favorite phrase? “I no like it!” It doesn’t matter if he ate it yesterday or he’s already halfway through the plate, once he throws out the “I no like it!” the meal is officially over.
All things considered, I really can’t complain about his eating habits. He really just seems like a normal toddler, but he’s definitively starting to voice his preferences more. And he has a strong preference for anything in the sausage family. This dinner was made with him in mind.
As expected, he happily gobbled the smoked sausage. The peppers and onions were largely avoided. The farro was his “I no like it!” trigger. All of the grown ups in the house really enjoyed this, though!
Sausage, Pepper and Farro Skillet
(slightly adapted from Budget Bytes)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
12 oz. smoked sausage
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. oregano
Pepper, to taste
2 cups cooked farro
Slice the onions and peppers. Coin slice the sausage.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Brown the sausage, then drain the excess fait.
Add the onions and peppers to the skillet. Cook until onions are translucent. Stir in the diced tomatoes, oregano, faro, and pepper to taste. Cook until heated through.
It’s officially November which means my Facebook feed is all “hey! let’s do Christmas!” Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and I totally have Christmas prep going here (like, the fill-it-yourself advent calendar I bought about a month ago and have been obsessing over what to put in it), but I also don’t want to brush other holidays under the rug. We did Halloween big (as it should be!) and now I’m thinking about Thanksgiving.
One of the hardest things about coordinating a Thanksgiving dinner is getting everything on the table at the same time. Either space in the oven/on the stove top is at a premium or there are just too many balls in the air to keep track of it all. Using other kitchen appliances other than the stove can help things go more smoothly. I’ve always been a big fan of the slow cooker, but this year I’m excited to throw the instant pot in the mix.
These mashed potatoes are basic, but they’re hands-off and perfect for your Thanksgiving meal. I used my stand mixer to make things go super fast but if you don’t have one (or it’s tied up with other Thanksgiving prep!) a hand mixer would work just fine too.
Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
(adapted from The Baker Upstairs)
2 lbs. potatoes
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Wash the potatoes. Peel, if desired, and quarter.
Add the rack to the instant pot, then the potatoes. Pour the chicken stock over the potatoes.
Using the manual setting, set to cook for 8 minutes and then quick release the pressure.
Drain the liquid and add the hot potatoes to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add remaining ingredients and mix until you reach the desired consistency.
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!
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?