I always have the best of intentions of waking up early on Sunday morning to make a nice breakfast for my family BUT I have the most comfortable bed in the whole wide world. Sooo, instead of getting up early, most days I end up delaying breakfast and lying in bed trying to convince myself that I should spend more time in my super soft, cozy bed.
"Does my family really WANT pancakes?
Do they even LIKE pancakes?
We probably don't even have enough syrup for pancakes.
We have plenty of cereal for breakfast.
Pancakes are all carbs anyway."
These are the thoughts that run through my mind as I negotiate with myself to buy myself a few extra minutes in my bed. It's probably no surprise that more times than not, breakfast takes a back seat to sleep.
The only way for me to truly avoid this internal argument that happens in my head every Sunday morning is to prep breakfast before I go to bed on Saturday night. There's actually quite a few things that I can prepare the night before to give me extra time in bed. Overnight oats, yeast waffle batter, egg casseroles and french toast casseroles are all great make ahead breakfast foods that we love.
This Berry Walnut French Toast Casserole is a great addition to our make ahead breakfast menus. It's absolutely scrumptious and I can toss it in the oven when I finally drag myself out of bed in the morning and by the time I get out of the shower - it's ready to eat.
Berry Walnut French Toast Casserole
8 ounce crusty whole grain baguette, cut into 1" cubes
1 cup milk
3 egg whites
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 ounce package frozen mixed berries, thawed
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cold butter
Bake 30 minutes at 375. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes.
Even though I didn't get a picture of it - this french toast is actually really yummy with a dollop of vanilla yogurt on the side. It compliments the toasted walnuts and the ripe berries, beautifully. I love this french toast and not JUST because it allows me to sleep an extra 15 minutes on Sunday morning. 😉 But extra sleep IS pretty great.
Lunch box notes from a pre-latte, barely holding it together, stressed out parent:
"I hit the snooze 7 times. Enjoy the Pop Tarts."
"Ok, Ok. I know that Isabel always has these amazing lunches and that you're tempted to trade your thermos of lentil soup and "gently aged" pear for her bente box of impeccably arranged sushi, veggies cut into flower shapes and homemade 100% fruit-juice sweetened cookies. I guess what I'm trying to say is - go ahead."
"That round thing is called a spoon. Use it. ... Also, sleeves are not napkins."
"If you toss this lunch and buy three puddings instead, I'll know."
"Enclosed is a butter knife - You cut the crusts off."
I borrowed these lunch box notes from an article in my Eating Well magazine. They really do describe my parenting style pretty accurately. I could see myself sending any one of these notes in my children's lunch box.
Trust me when I say that the presence or absence of a unique and creatively handwritten note tucked inside the lunch boxes of your little ones on a daily basis is not an accurate portrayal of the quality of our parenting. Don't judge yourself too harshly if you're not a note writing kind of parent. I usually started out the school year with big dreams of making homemade granola bars and my own fruit juice gummies but by the second week of school I couldn't even manage to refreeze the ice packs on a daily basis. Somehow, my kids managed to survive on canned tuna and a sleeve of ritz crackers.
We would all love to be "Isabel's" parent but let's face it - that doesn't always happen. There were days when I would send my kids off to school with a Martha Stewart worthy lunch and then prepare a healthy, homemade dinner for my family. But there were many MORE days that I would send my kids off to school with a cup of mandarin oranges and a peanut butter sandwich and still barely manage to scrape together a half-way healthy dinner for them to scarf down 30 minutes before baseball or soccer practice.
Meals can be a struggle. It's time we admitted it. I'm here to make meal preparation just a little less painful for you AND your family. If time and lack of cooking skills are your meal time obstacles, you need to give this Skillet Chili Mac a try. It's ridiculously easy, it comes together in under 35 minutes and it's super delicious.
Skillet Chili Mac
12 ounces whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup low sodium beef broth
15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Serve with cheddar and scallions.
My college aged daughter moved home to live with us for the summer and I have to say that it was just about the quickest three months of my life. Two years ago, when we moved her into her dorm room for the first time, I had prepared myself for the hardest goodbye of my life. My baby girl was moving away and I armed myself with an arsenal of coping mechanisms and a box of tissues to help myself deal with the transition of being an empty nester. I read the parenting books about the significance of "drop off day" written by all sorts of "experts" and I was prepared for the emotional flood. And believe me - there was a flood that day.
I was filled with overwhelming pride that she was attending the college of her dreams and sadness that her bright shining face would be absent from our dinner table every night. So on the day of her college drop off we carefully hauled tote after tote of bathroom necessities, school supplies and university sweatshirts into her unusually tiny dorm room on the 4th floor. After we organized her closet to Marie Kondo perfection and made her bed with the new sheets and comforter that she picked out for this exact occasion, we said our final goodbyes. The "experts were right" - it was hard. I may have let a few tears slip out before we left her room but I managed to mostly hold it together until we got to the car.
It was no surprise that it was hard to say goodbye and to leave her in that dorm room for the first time. What WAS a surprise is that there would be so many goodbyes over the next few years that would be equally heart wrenching. Why didn't the "experts" mention the goodbye when she moved back to school after her first Fall break? Christmas break? Summer vacation? It seems there's an endless stream of goodbyes when your child moves away to college. And in my experience - these subsequent goodbyes - don't get any easier with time. Silly me, I thought that once we got through the initial college drop off, each time she went back to school would be easier - turns out - I was wrong. Very wrong.
So last week I had to say goodbye again to my sweet daughter who moved back to school. Life feels differently when she's not in the house and it's going to take some getting used to not having her here again. It takes me about a week before I can even go into her room to change her sheets. 😥
Over the years, I've managed to come up with my own goodbye rituals when my kids go back to college. There's some crying, a lot of busy work and there's always some chocolate involved in my coping techniques. It's not the healthiest way of dealing with the emotional trauma but what can I say? Chocolate soothes my aching soul. So for all of you parents out there who may be struggling with the endless cycle of painful goodbyes of a college-aged child - whether it's the first goodbye or the 20th goodbye - I'm here to say I feel your pain and I've got your back. This Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie won't make the goodbyes any easier but it will help you feel better as you sit alone in your quieter than usual house.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
Bake 35 minutes at 325. Cover with foil and bake another 10 minutes.
Let cool 15 minutes then cut into 12 wedges.
Chocolate and pasta are my comfort foods. (Not together obviously.) What do you eat when you need to really need something comforting and soothing? Send me your favorite comfort foods in the comments.
My cookie sheets are the workhorse of my kitchen. They're responsible for safely transporting all of the cookies in and out of my oven but they have to function as more than a means of food transport. I bake a lot of meals on my cookie sheets and they have to distribute the heat evenly so that everything browns perfectly without burning our dinner to a crisp.
Cookie sheets are essential to baking great cookies but if you're only using them for that one purpose, you're underutilizing this piece of essential kitchen equipment. The proper term for them is actually baking sheet and that more accurately describes their purpose. Oven roasted bacon, slab pies, pumpkin rolls, sheet cakes, cinnamon rolls, cookie bars, roasted vegetables and meats are all things that I make on my cookie/baking sheets.
Sheet pan dinners have actually become one of my favorite things to make and I must not be the only person who's discovered them because I see them all over the internet now. After all, what could be easier than cooking an entire meal on one foil lined baking sheet? They're easy to prepare, easy to clean up and delicious to eat.
These Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas are just one of the incredible sheet pan meals that I make on a regular basis. Shrimp, peppers, onions and a spicy crema sauce - what could be better? I'm a fan of corn tortillas but if you prefer flour tortillas - you could certainly swap them out.
Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas
1 pound peeled shrimp
2 red bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1 cup sliced poblano chile
1 cup red onion, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon coriander
3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon cilantro
1 Tablespoon jalapeno, chopped
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Spoon shrimp and vegetables into warm tortillas.
Serve with lime wedges and sauce.
I got my first cookie sheets as a wedding gift over 25 years ago and I really never appreciated or gave them a second thought until out of necessity, I had to replace them. I had sticker shock when I realized just how much they cost so like a fool, I opted for some very inexpensive baking sheets. The new and cheaper cookie sheets lasted only 2 short weeks in my busy kitchen. Quite simply, they didn't hold up to the work that I threw at them. They were thin and flimsy and everything that I put on them, burned to a crisp. Within the month, I swapped my new, inexpensive cookie sheets out for some that would stand the test of time.
Do you experience FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? I'm such an introvert that I feel like I'm much more likely to experience FOMH (Fear OF Missing Home) than FOMO. 😂OK, so FOMH my not be an actual thing but it describes my attitude towards social situations perfectly. It's a good thing that I'm married to my complete opposite. My social butterfly husband forces me out of my comfort zone and into situations that stretch my personality. If it weren't for him - I would probably be living as a hermit, deep in the woods somewhere. 😂🌲
Our divergent personalities even carry over into our dinner decisions. It probably won't surprise you that my extrovert husband likes the social interaction of going out to eat. And even though I can appreciate being served a meal that has been prepared by someone else, probably even more than most girls, I also really like to eat my own food. I have comfort in being able to control exactly what goes into my meal and I love the fact that I can prepare my food exactly the way that I like it. There's no apprehension about ordering something that I won't like. Maybe I have FOESEF. (Fear Of Eating Someone Else's Food) 💁🏻♀️
I normally don't order things at restaurants that I can make for myself at home. I like to try and recreate the meals that I get served at restaurants in my own kitchen though. The delicious rolls from my favorite steakhouse, the savory soups that I first tasted at Panera, the pizza from Alini's and the tiramisu from the Macaroni Grill. Some of my recipe recreations have worked out better than others. 😉 There was a copycat Bloomin' Onion debacle that we just don't talk about anymore. 🤣
My family thinks I'm crazy but I actually really like to order salads at restaurants. I like to sample the fun salad combinations that restaurants put together. I'm always looking for new ways to spice up my salads at home and taste testing them at restaurants is a great way to give them a trial run. I gave this salad (minus the steak) a test run at a local pub recently. It was really yummy and I decided to make it more Ben-friendly by adding a little grilled steak to the top.
Mediterranean Steak and Pita Salad
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 (8 inch) pita bread, cut into triangles
2 teaspoons cumin
1 pound skirt steak, cut into 4 pieces
2 Romaine hearts, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 avocado, sliced
Add lettuce, mint and pita to bowl with tomato mixture. Toss to coat. Top with sliced steak.
We're officially in the Dog Days of Summer. It's 106 with the heat index in Atlanta this afternoon and I feel like I'm melting faster than an ice cream cone in the sun. I crave cool, crispy salads on days like today. They're a great way to eat healthy and stay cool on these ridiculously hot days.
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