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.
Give me some chicken, some sunshine and a grill and I'm a HAPPY girl. ☀️ Anyone else love chicken so much that they feel like they could eat it every single day for a year and not get tired of it? There are just so many unique and delicious ways to grill chicken - how could anyone get tired of it?
I like grilled chicken with herbs, rubs, spices, sauces and toppings. Whole chickens, breasts, drumsticks, thighs and wings - I like them all. I also like to experiment by adding different woods to my charcoal grill to give my chicken a deep smoky flavor. I like chicken so much that I usually grill a giant batch on the weekends so that I can use it in my recipes all week.
Unfortunately my family doesn't share my enthusiasm for grilled chicken. They don't complain about eating it once or twice a week but when I try and bump up our chicken consumption to four or more times a week, there's significant grumbling. My solution? Serve grilled chicken twice a week and hide it into our other meals throughout the week so that it goes undetected. (Tacos, soups, salads, sandwiches, calzones, stromboli - all good vessels for hiding chicken protein.) 🤫
I'm confident that Grilled Lemon Chicken is what summer would taste like if you could actually TASTE summer. 🌞 It's bright, fresh and sunny - that's the only way that I can describe it. While some grilled chicken recipes call for overnight marinating, this recipe comes together in just over 30 minutes and I'm a big fan. Oh, and the leftovers got turned into stacked chicken enchilada casserole. 👌🏻
Grilled Lemon Chicken
1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 pounds bone in chicken breasts
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Serve lemon sauce and remaining lemon halves with chicken.
This week is expected to be the hottest week of the summer and I for one am a little nervous about it. Thank goodness I've got my chicken for the week already grilled and in the frig. because I'm not sure that standing in front of the grill on my back deck in 105 degree temperatures are really an option. Maybe this is a good week to test out my it's so hot I can "fry and egg on my deck" theory. I'll let you know how that goes.
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming --- what am I doing inside? I should be dining al fresco every single day! Oh yeah - it's 110 degrees on my back porch at dinner time. 😅 Whoever declared August as National Picnic Month obviously doesn't live in Atlanta.
Why is it that everything just tastes better when it's eaten outside? The great thing about a picnic is that you can make it super simple by picking up a pizza or a bucket of chicken and lay down a blanket down in the back yard. Or you can go to an exotic location, find a fancy tablecloth and create a picnic that's Pottery Barn catalog worthy. I like both kinds - and everything in between.
It's no mistake that we have more outdoor seating space at our house than we do indoor eating space. That's the reason that I've hosted Thanksgiving picnics, Easter dinner picnics and even birthday party picnics. I have to sit people where ever I have the most seats and on most occasions, that's outside on the patio. The only problem is that bad weather can really throw a kink in our outdoor dining plans. ⛈
If you're looking for a great thing to serve at your next picnic, consider this Turkey Picnic Sandwich. It's fancier than a plain old turkey sandwich on white bread but it's not so pretentious that it's going to discourage picky eaters from diving in. I made my turkey picnic sandwich half kid friendly (cheese and turkey only) and half as the recipe is written. I ate the half with the yummy sun-dried tomato tapenade, roasted red peppers and fresh basil and it was amazing. I served the turkey and cheese only half to my child and she LOVED it.
Turkey Picnic Sandwich
1 pizza dough
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 ounces provolone Cheese
8 ounces thinly sliced deli turkey
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 1/4 cups roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry
3/4 cup olive oil packed sun dried tomatoes, drained and patted dry
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 Tablespoons olive oil
In the interest of full disclaimer, we ate this Turkey Picnic Sandwich at the kitchen table. Technically, I guess that doesn't constitute a picnic but it beat the alternative of sweating over my sandwich while battling this oppressive summer heat wave that we're currently experiencing. I do plan to make this sandwich again in a month or so when we can actually take it outside and enjoy it in true picnic fashion.
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