Back when I was in college and living in an apartment with friends, the only person that I had to worry about was myself, and as you might expect - I became an expert at cooking for one. 👩🏻🍳 When I got married, I had to retrain myself to cook for 2 people. Safe to say it took some time for me to master that task. 😬 (Sorry about that chicken-less casserole, honey.) 😂 Fast forward a few more years and I found myself having to double my meal output yet again as our family grew. Learning how to cook meals for 4 individuals with very different food preferences was a challenging undertaking to say the least. 👶🏻 There were days when cooking enough food for my little family of 4 seemed like an overwhelming task.
I had my doubts but despite my apprehension, I eventually got to the point where I could prepare Easter brunch for our family and have it ready before 5:00. 😂😅 And just when I felt like I had dinner for 4 mastered, we found ourselves in close proximity to our extended families for the first time in our marriage and I was in a predicament. I loved to entertain and cook holiday meals but I severely lacked any experience in large quantity food production. Thank goodness for an understating family of guinea pigs.
I couldn't help but think about the days when cooking for 4, or even 2, stretched my culinary skills today as I prepared food for a brunch to feed 80 to 100 people. It's taken me 30 years to get here but I actually find a sense of satisfaction in cooking for a crowd. 🤣 Now, I really couldn't think of a better way to spend a morning than baking 17 dozen muffins. 🤷🏻♀️
Brunch in my opinion, should ALWAYS include muffins. My muffins of choice today were banana chocolate chip, lemon crunch muffins, strawberry cheesecake muffins, pumpkin spice muffins, blueberry muffins and nutella swirl muffins. They're all delicious but I'm especially partial to these new muffins with chocolatey hazelnut spread swirled into sweet vanilla batter.
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 cup Nutella
Bake 5 minutes at 425. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 15-19 more minutes.
This recipe was created out of necessity. I had a little bit of Nutella left in the bottom of the jar after I made a cake with chocolate hazelnut frosting and we can all agree, Nutella is way too good to throw away. 🤣 No sense in wasting a good thing. I think these muffins might just be my new favorite way to eat Nutella.
Pie making is no joke. 🥧 There's an art to making the perfect buttery crust that can be delicately rolled into a perfect circle and artfully fit inside of a pie plate. The perfect pie dough isn't overworked making it tough and chewy and it's not under-kneaded and crumbly. There's no denying that achieving the perfectly flaky, crispy pie crust is not something that can be rushed.
Mastering the art of homemade pie crust is only the first step to making a perfect pie. Blanching, peeling, slicing, simmering and seasoning fruit to fill that beautiful homemade crust inevitably involves a big commitment of time as well. Pie baking takes practice, it takes patience, it takes quality ingredients and even though I don't believe in luck - I feel like pie baking takes a fair amount of "luck."
I've come to the realization recently that sailing is a whole lot like pie baking. ⛵️It requires patience, practice, strong equipment and some good old fashioned luck. This became remarkably clear last weekend when Ben and I took this little vessel out for a spin.
On our inaugural trip, one of the lines holding the sail, broke in two, leaving us stranded in the middle of the lake. 😬 Fortunately, we were able to rework the shortened line and finagle the tiny boat back to shore where we could replace the broken rope.
A few days later, feeling like we needed to complete our journey that was cut short, we embarked on a second voyage. We were happily cruised along to the opposite end of the bay with the wind filling our sail when suddenly, for no apparent reason, the wind just ... died - like, completely. 😅 So there we sat on our motionless yacht, staring at each other, waiting for wind. After 15 minutes, we ran out of patience and started paddling our boat back to shore - more accurately, Ben started paddling. 🤣
Patience is defined as "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset." Hmmm. 🤔 That doesn't sound like me at all. 😂 I didn't have a lot of patience on the sailboat and I certainly don't demonstrate a lot of patience while I'm baking. 😬 Maybe that's why pies have never been my forte.
I'm not ignorant to the fact that there are easier ways to make pie. I've used the pre-rolled crusts, canned pie filling and bought whole frozen pies. They're all good options, but for me, the real joy of a pie lies in the art of creating. There's no question that I'm still trying to master the skills of baking the perfect pie. I've loving the process and who knows, maybe I'll even learn to have a little more patience, along the way.
Peach Raspberry Pie
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 recipe double crust pie dough
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
4 pounds (about 8 large) peaches, sliced
1/2 pint raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Roll out remaining pie dough. Brush rim of bottom crust with egg mixture. Top with second crust.
Crimp the edges of the pie and refrigerate 30 minutes. Brush pie with egg glaze and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake 20 minutes at 425. Reduce heat to 350 and bake another 30-40 minutes.
Pie baking experts - why are my fruit pies soggy sometimes? The peaches that I used for this pie were not very juicy and I used fresh raspberries so I don't understand why this pie turned out so soggy on the bottom. Do I need to add more flour or maybe some cornstarch? Any suggestions or insight would be appreciated.
Summer 2021 - you did not disappoint. Sure, I had my fair share of struggles and disappointments but there were a whole lot more great days than bad. The highlights: our amazing trips, the time we spent with our family and friends and the lifelong memories that we made in the process. Oh, and I'm pretty sure I ate my weight in s'mores this summer too. After all, isn't that what summer is all about? 🍫
Our busy summer of travel had us eating out of the house more than usual this year. And while I appreciate a meal prepared for me by someone else, I have to admit that I'm ready for some home cooked meals. They might not be accompanied by an artfully displayed appetizer, a glass of red wine and a sweet dessert but then again - maybe that's the reason that my shorts are fitting just a little tighter these days. 😅
There are just a few weeks of summer left, before my kitchen gets completely torn apart and then reconstructed, so I'm taking full advantage and cooking as many meals at home, as I can. Healthy meals. After a summer of indulgence - okay - over-indulgence, it's back to healthy, nutritious meals for us.
I've tried serving giant bowls of lettuce in an attempt to get my family "back on track" after some unhealthy food choices and you can probably imagine how that went over. 👎🏻🤣 Turns out, displaying a big, colorful summer salad on a giant platter in the middle of the table is received much better than a bowl of lettuce. Giving my family the control to create their own customized salad from the platter, is the key to getting us all to eat healthier.
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4-5 cups baby spinach
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and sliced
1/2 English cucumber, sliced
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)
Top with chicken, strawberries, avocado, cucumbers, onion, pecans and goat cheese.
Pour the poppy seed dressing on top of the salad and gently toss to combine.
I am a diehard vinaigrette dressing lover. Preferably, balsamic vinegar. But after one taste of this mayonnaise based poppy seed dressing - I was hooked. I'm not sure I've ever licked the spoon that I used to stir salad dressing before. 🤣 It's that good. Trust me.
My daughter informed us at the age of 6 that she was going to grow up and become a teacher. 📚Over the years, she crossed paths with more than a few people that tried to discourage her and steer her in another direction, but she held strong to her conviction that she was meant to teach children. Teaching has always been her passion which makes watching her live out her dream as a Kindergarten teacher even sweeter.
I took the longer, more "round-about" road to discovering what I was passionate about in life. 🤣 And once I finally decided that I really enjoyed cooking and baking, it took me the better part of 10 years to turn my hobby into a business. 💁🏻♀️ I'm more of an ease my way in and test the waters than a jump right in with both feet, kind of girl. 🤣
While there are obvious perks to baking professionally, there are also some downfalls to turning your hobby into your job. Decorating cookies is way less fun after you do it for 12 straight hours. 😅 It's fair to say that my family's not been deprived of sugar since my baking evolved into a business though. There was never any shortage of cake scraps and cookie mistakes for hungry kiddos to enjoy. 😋
Maybe it's just my pride, but I bake so many cookies that I really can't justify buying them from the grocery store. As much as my kids loved growing up in a house filled with homemade sugary treats, there was no denying their looks of disappointment when we passed by the cookie aisle in the grocery store. 🍪 Is it considered child abuse if you don't buy your kids Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies? 😂
I'm still not sure that I ever bought a package of Chocolate Chip cookies but I will admit to purchasing the occasional package of Oreo cookies. My family LOVES Oreos and turns out, they were a great reward for unmotivated kids. The magic cookies turned my kids into professional negotiators and surprisingly helpful dishwasher emptiers. 😂
Now that the "kids" aren't so much "kids" anymore, the Oreos tend to last just a little bit longer in the house, which gives me a chance to snag a few to myself. If I'm being honest - I don't love Oreos but I do love to crush them up and turn them into other ... more homemade treats. Cupcakes, cakes, ice cream and cheesecakes are all treats that I've made even more delicious by adding Oreos. Today, it's biscotti that's getting and Oreo upgrade. I can't imagine a better way to take ordinary biscotti to the next level.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
⅔ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
15 chocolate sandwich cookies coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons white chocolate, melted
Arrange slices on baking sheet and bake 25-30 minutes. Let cool.
Drizzle chocolate over cooled biscotti.
For a girl who doesn't really love Oreos - I could not stop eating these biscotti! They are amazing and let's just say, I would clear the dishwasher twice a day if I could eat on of these every time. 😅
Although there's not much to report on the kitchen remodel lately - I have been trying to prepare myself mentally for what is about to happen. 🤣 Just curious, how does one go about adequately preparing themselves for literal walls to be torn down? 😬 I'm more than ready to say goodbye to my overfilled cabinets that no longer close or function properly but quite honestly, I'm not sure how I'm going to cope without a workable kitchen. Lord, help me find my calm within the storm. 🙏🏻
This month while I've been focusing on preparing myself mentally for this impending kitchen demolition, I've also been preparing my freezer. Stocking my freezer with meals that I can defrost and reheat in the microwave next month, which may or may not be plugged into an outlet in our bedroom. 😬🤷🏻♀️ Casseroles, taco meat, crock pot ready meals, pasta dishes and lasagnas will be our survival meals during our kitchen-less period.
I may or may not have gone a little overboard on the lasagna prep. I made a turkey lasagna, an eggplant lasagna and this new butternut squash lasagna. Don't judge me - I crave carbs - what can I say? 😅 This was a great two for one meal. I made one whole recipe and divided into 2 small containers. We ate one tonight and I froze the second.
Blogging a lasagna recipe is no joke. There are just soooo many steps and pictures to document that it can be overwhelming for both of us. A lengthy list of ingredients and directions for you to navigate through and a ridiculous amount of pictures for me to take and post. 😂A lasagna recipe with a homemade sauce is even more of a challenge to blog so I don't post a lot of lasagna recipes. That should tell you how much I adore this Butternut Squash Lasagna. It is worth all of the effort - trust me on this one.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
1 butternut squash
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sliced mushrooms
1 shallot, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 ounces ricotta
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3-6 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
no boil lasagna noodles
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
salt and pepper
1/2 cup mozzarella
2 Tablespoons parmesan
Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes at 375.
Uncover and bake 15-20 minutes longer.
The pictures of this one don't really do it justice. We gobbled this up in record time and I'm already thinking about how soon I'm going to be pulling the second one out of the freezer. 😋
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