pure comfort

chicken and dumplings – toddler approved!

this is what comes to mind when i think of comfort food. chicken and dumplings just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and best eaten in cold weather… despite living in southern california, it does get down to the 40s at night in the winter! we’ve all had a tough year, with the added stress of covid on someone who already struggles with anxiety, plus my husband being deployed, traveling across the country with a toddler and a baby, and california being on fire… i was really looking forward to the warmth and comfort of the holidays. emmett and josie both love this dish, and it’s one i’ll be making a lot this winter. hope you enjoy it as much as we do 🙂

ingredients

2 large chicken breasts
6 cups broth or stock – i used homemade turkey stock from thanksgiving, but as the queen would say, store bought is fine 😉
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 an onion
1 clove minced garlic
4-5 carrots – my kids both love carrots so i always add extra
2 stalks celery
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

dumplings
i used this recipe from allrecipes.com, and it was amazing. the only thing i did differently was melt the butter (recipe calls for margarine, but i don’t keep margarine around so butter it is) instead of cutting it in because i didn’t pay attention to the instructions. i also doubled it. you’ll need:
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk

instructions

this recipe is so easy. start by cooking the chicken however your heart desires, then shred it. i was being super lazy and actually threw them in the instant pot completely frozen with some chicken broth on manual for 15 minutes. dice up the onions, carrots and celery, and sauté them with the butter and olive oil on medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven until the onions start to become translucent. then add in the garlic, thyme, sage, parsley, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and continue cooking for about 2 more minutes. add your shredded chicken, white wine, stock or broth, and can of cream of mushroom. bring this to a boil then reduce it to a simmer. at this time also taste for salt and pepper, and season as needed. meanwhile, make up your dumplings. whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. add in the melted butter and milk, and mix until just combined. drop spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture into the simmering soup (make them as big as you like!). simmer over low heat, partially covered for 30 minutes.

power of breakfast

copycat dunkin power breakfast sandwich

this is a great make ahead freezer breakfast for moms on the go. i’ve been in a rut with either eating something quick and unhealthy for breakfast, or not eating anything at all because usually by the time i sit down, the kids are screaming at me. i love the breakfast power sandwich from dunkin, but obviously can’t go there every day, plus i’m always tempted by their pumpkin coffee and we’ve been trying to cut out some sugar and eat more whole foods. this was a good compromise!

ingredients

4 eggs and 4 egg whites
6 turkey breakfast sausage patties – either premade patties or make them yourself
6 slices of cheddar cheese
6 arnold sandwich thins – i went with the multigrain
one red, orange, or yellow bell pepper
1/4 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 – 2 cups of fresh baby spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard

instructions

preheat your oven to 350 degrees. mince the peppers and onions (and garlic, if you don’t use pre-minced like me, because i’m lazy), and chop the spinach pretty finely. heat a large skillet to medium, add the olive oil, and sauté the peppers and onions until they start to get soft, about 5-8 minutes. meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl and add the salt, pepper, and dry mustard. mix the the chopped spinach into the eggs. add the garlic to the skillet after the peppers and onions have softened and cook for one more minute then remove this from the heat. line a sheet pan (i recommend 9×13) with parchment paper, then spray it with cooking spray to make sure the eggs don’t stick. spread the pepper and onion mixture evenly across the bottom of the sheet pan, and pour the egg and spinach mixture over this. use a spatula to make sure the spinach is evenly distributed and then bake this for 12-15 minutes, until the eggs are completely set.

while the eggs are baking, fry the sausage patties in a skillet over medium-high heat until they are completely cooked through. i made my patties pretty large and thin to try to make them the same size as the bread. they still ended up shrinking a lot during cooking. once the eggs are done, let them cool enough to handle, then remove the parchment from the pan and slice the egg into six squares, big enough to fit the sandwiches. you could also use a large round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter if you want them to fit perfectly! assemble each sandwich by placing egg, sausage, then cheese and wrap each one individually in foil for freezing. to reheat, just place a wrapped sandwich in a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until everything is heated through. you can also wrap it in a paper towel and microwave it.

perfect pastries

savory mushroom and leek hand pies

clearly i’m on a mushroom kick… these savory hand pies are great as an app or paired with a salad or veg for a meal. fresh thyme and sage pair so well with the mushrooms and leeks. these would also be great with a little grated fontina or gruyere, but we didn’t have any cheese sitting around and they still turned out amazing. plus, they’re vegetarian! enjoy!

ingredients

8 oz white button mushrooms
8 oz baby portabella mushrooms
2 leeks – white and light green parts only
1 cup white wine – i’ve been loving this prophecy sauv blanc
1 cup vegetable broth – i used better than boullion… so flavorful
1-2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves stripped off the stem
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil, separated
2 tbsp flour
*1 tsp sugar (if you use a sweeter wine, you may not need to add, but the wine i used was very dry so this helped offset the acidity)
salt & pepper to taste
2 packages frozen puff pastry dough
1 egg + 1 tbsp cold water for egg wash

instructions

start by slicing the leeks thinly, and placing them in a large bowl of cold water to rinse. you’ll want to separate all the layers to make sure there is no sand. remove them from the water and place on a sheet pan or plate with a paper towel to dry. cut all the mushrooms in a small dice, then heat a large skillet or dutch oven to medium heat, add the butter and olive oil and saute the mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated and they start to brown. remove mushrooms and place in a separate bowl. add additional tablespoon of olive oil and add the leeks to the pan. saute over medium heat until they soften, about 5-6 minutes. add the mushrooms back in, along with the chopped sage, thyme, garlic, and pepper. cook this mixture together for about 2-3 minutes, or until you can smell the garlic. sprinkle the two tablespoons of flour over this mixture and continue to cook until the flour is absorbed, and at this point add the wine and vegetable broth. add your sugar, and salt to taste. bring this to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until it has reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes.

let the filling cool completely, and as it cools it will continue to thicken and reduce. while the filling is cooling you can thaw out the puff pastry according to the directions on the package. to bake the pastries, preheat your oven to 400. whisk the egg with one tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. on a floured surface, roll out one sheet of puff pastry and slice the square into four smaller squares. put about 2-3 tablespoons of filling (depending on how big your squares are) onto half the puff pastry square, leaving space on the edge to seal it. use your finger to put a little egg wash around the edge, fold it over to make a triangle and crimp the edges with a fork. brush the egg wash over the top of the pastries, and then use a paring knife to cut a small slit in the top to vent. bake them for about 15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. this recipe will make about 15-16 large hand pies, so definitely halve it if you’re cooking for a smaller crowd.


sandwich love

two cheese veggie panini

a vegetarian panini that hits the spot with herby balsamic mushrooms, roasted peppers and onions, spicy arugala and 2x the cheese. you could definitely add some rotisserie chicken, but with everything going on here you won’t miss the meat!

ingredients

herbed balsamic mushrooms
baby bella mushrooms, sliced
olive oil
fresh thyme, about 1 tsp of leaves stripped off the stem
1 clove minced garlic
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

roasted peppers and onions
1-2 red or yellow bell peppers
1/2 yellow or sweet onion sliced thinly
olive oil
salt & pepper

sandwich
crusty panini bread – i like this one from aldi, but you can use anything!
herbed balsamic mushrooms
roasted peppers and onions
goat cheese
muenster cheese
baby arugala
sliced tomato
butter

instructions
for the roasted peppers and onions, preheat your oven to 415. thinly slice onions and peppers and lay flat on a sheet pan covered with foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. toss to evenly coat everything then bake for 10 minutes. remove them from the oven, toss and return for 5-7 more minutes until onions start to brown. for the mushrooms, heat a large skillet to medium heat and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. add in the mushrooms, thyme, and some salt and pepper to taste, and saute until the mushrooms release all their liquid. once the liquid begins to evaporate, add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar and continue cooking until most of the liquid is gone. add the minced garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. arrange your sandwich by buttering both slices of bread on the outside, stack up the goat cheese, mushrooms, onions and peppers, tomato, arugala and finish with the muenster. press in a panini press or grill over medium heat in a skillet until both sides are golden brown and the cheese is melted. enjoy 🙂

perfect fall salad

arugala salad with roasted sweet potatoes and maple balsamic viniagrette

it’s been a while! we’re currently staying with my parents in maryland until ryan gets back from deployment so my mom typically does most of the cooking while we’re here. i can’t complain! i made this salad a few times last year and was craving it again with the crisp, cool fall weather brought on by october. it’s definitely my favorite time of year in maryland, and this is one of my favorite salads.

ingredients

salad
baby arugala
peeled sweet potato, cut into rounds
goat cheese
toasted pecans*
craisins
corn starch
olive oil
salt & pepper

dressing
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 clove of minced garlic
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

instructions

preheat your oven to 415. place sweet potato rounds on a sheet pan covered with foil. sprinkle generously with corn starch and then salt and pepper. sprinkle with olive oil (about 1-2 tbsp), and toss together until there is no more dry corn starch, and all the sweet potatoes are evenly coated. roast for 10 minutes, then turn the sweet potatoes and return to the oven for five more minutes. some pieces will start to brown around the edges, i love the crispy ones! *if you are toasting your own pecans, spread them evenly on a sheet pan and toast in the 415 degree oven for about 2-3 minutes or just until you start to smell them. for the dressing, combine all ingredients in a mason jar or small bowl, and shake or whisk together until combined. combine all the salad ingredients in a large salad or pasta bowl, toss with the dressing and enjoy! pomegranate seeds could also be substituted for the craisins and i think that would be delicious as well.

easy pancakes

cinnamon oat pancakes

been a little mia lately since we last minute decided to travel home to maryland for the last portion of ryans deployment. hence, we have been relying on easy meals, and also putting together some freezer meals for friends before we leave. these pancakes are easy to whip up with a baby on your hip, and added fiber from the oats might make you feel better about feeding your toddler syrup for breakfast >.< they’re also perfect for freezing. i usually will keep a bag of them in the freezer and pop one in the microwave for 30 seconds. toddler and baby approved!

ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup quick or old fashioned oats
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp white sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups milk (i prefer 2% or whole)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter

instructions

sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla. nuke the butter for about 30-40 seconds or until completely melted. add the wet ingredients to the dry, as well as the butter, and mix until fully combined. fry the pancakes over medium heat on a pan or griddle top using butter, or cooking spray to coat the surface. we served them with maple syrup and our favorite wild blueberries.

easy weeknight noodles

stir fried sesame noodles with veggies

these noodles definitely hit the spot when i was craving chinese takeout. the toddler wasn’t a huge fan because they are a little spicy, but you can always leave out the chili paste if littles will be eating too.

ingredients

half a box of spaghetti noodles, cooked al dente
medium sized carrot
1 zucchini
1/3 thinly sliced onion
1/4 cup of soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tbsp to cook vegetables
1-2 tbsp sesame oil (i only like a light sesame flavor and it’s really strong so i only use one, but add more to your taste!)
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tsp sambal… linking because this stuff is amazing if you haven’t used it
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp vinegar – sherry vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
splash of water – about a teaspoon
optional garnish – sesame seeds, green onion, sriracha, etc.

instructions

cook the noodles to al dente according to package directions, and set aside. whisk together the soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil, hoisin, sambal, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and water. heat a large pan or wok to medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil, and saute onions, zucchini, and carrot for about 3 minutes until starting to brown (i sliced the onion thinly, and then used a regular peeler to shave ribbons of about half the carrot and half the zucchini directly into the pan). add in the noodles to the pan and toss together with the vegetables. pour sauce over noodles and toss all together until heated through. garnish with sesame seeds, sriracha, etc.

next level sweet potato

bbq chicken stuffed sweet potatoes

this. gives. me. life. a bbq chicken stuffed sweet potato with avocado, crispy fried shallots, and sriracha crema. the sweet, creamy sweet potato, cool avocado, crunchy shallots, and spicy crema are the perfect combo. if you don’t like sweet potatoes *cough* my husband *cough,* you could certainly use a regular baked russet potato.

bbq chicken

use any shredded chicken you want or have leftover. linking to my go to bbq sauce recipe but will list out the ingredients here because i do change a few things… mainly because i have little ones eating it and switch out hot sauce for apple cider vinegar. i just mixed up the sauce, poured it over 2 chicken breasts in the instant pot and cooked on manual for 15 minutes. then i used two forks to shred it. if you do it in the instant pot the sauce will become thinner because the chicken releases so much liquid. you could also mix up the sauce and just simmer it in a sauce pan to thicken and use on leftover or shredded rotisserie chicken.

1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp yellow mustard

crispy shallots

2 shallots, sliced thinly
1 cup canola oil
kosher salt

heat canola oil in a heavy bottomed pan to medium heat. fry shallots until just golden brown (about 5-6 mins) then transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and lightly season with kosher salt. they will crisp up as they cool.

sriracha crema

1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 tsp sriracha hot sauce
pinch of kosher salt
a few grinds of fresh cracked black pepper

instructions

bake sweet potatoes at 385 degrees for 1 hour. top with all the delicious toppings 🙂

instant pot strikes again… socal heat wave

instant pot butter chicken

if you haven’t heard, socal is on the tail end of a massive heatwave, and we don’t have ac. no… we are not ok. hence i’ve been using the instant pot a ton, since i can’t stand over the stove or have the oven heating up the house any more. adapted this butter chicken recipe from cafe delites for the instant pot, changed a few things around and it turned out amazing. this sauce is what dreams are made of. disclaimer, i did still use the stove to brown off the chicken since i really don’t love the saute setting on the instant pot. also, i typically would never do this but i realized last minute that i didn’t have any onions so i substituted with dried minced onion. it turned out so well, i’d make it again that way. stay tuned for vegetarian version!

marinade for chicken

4-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of most fat (depending on how many people you’re feeding. I only had four thighs, but there is so much extra sauce you could definitely do 6).
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
*splash of white wine for deglazing the pan after browning

sauce

14 oz crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 tbsp dried minced onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
*parsley or cilantro to garnish, if desired

instructions

make the marinade for the chicken by whisking together the greek yogurt, garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, paprika, chili powder, turmeric, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. add chicken thighs and coat them all. cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, up to overnight if you have time. start the sauce right in the instant pot by adding the crushed tomatoes, minced onion, grated fresh ginger, cumin, garam masala, coriander, chili powder, salt, and sugar. basically everything except the cream and butter. save these for later. simmer the sauce on the low saute setting while browning the chicken. heat a heavy bottomed pan (dutch oven or cast iron skillet) to medium-high. melt butter and add olive oil. brown the chicken in batches for about 3-4 minutes on each side, just to get a nice brown color. it will finish cooking in the instant pot. as they finish, add them to the sauce in the instant pot. once finished browning all chicken, add a splash of white wine to the pan and deglaze it using a wooden spoon (scrape all the brown bits off the bottom) then add all this flavor goodness into the instant pot as well. Set on manual for 12 minutes. allow to naturally vent for at least ten minutes before releasing valve. remove the chicken and set aside on a plate. add sauce to a blender, and blend until uniform. add back into the instant pot and stir in the heavy cream and butter, and add the chicken back into the sauce. serve over steamed basmati or jasmine rice, and garnish with parsley or cilantro if you like it!

i’m on a blueberry kick

blueberry lemon muffins with ricotta

this recipe makes a small batch, and is easy to make with just two bowls, a whisk and a rubber spatula. perfect for littles to help with, as they’re pretty forgiving. they’re light and fluffy with plenty of lemon zing and a juicy kick from all the blueberries.

ingredients

1 cup flour
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
zest of one lemon
1 egg
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon, depending on how juicy it is)
1 tbsp milk
about 1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup of frozen wild blueberries

instructions

preheat oven to 350. add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest, and salt into a small bowl. whisk together to incorporate. in a separate larger bowl whisk together the egg, ricotta, lemon juice, milk, honey, oil, and vanilla. add the dry ingredients and the blueberries to the wet. fold together until just moistened. either spray muffin tin with cooking spray or line with muffin liners. fill each muffin cup to about 3/4 and bake for 15-20 minutes depending on how your oven cooks. Mine are usually done at 19 minutes but i always start checking them at 15. cool in the pan for at least ten minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. enjoy!