Around here, summer is an all out sprint. In our house, there's nothing leisurely or remotely relaxing about summer. What can I say? It's so fleeting that I feel compelled to make the most out of every single moment. Fall is a time for rest and rejuvenation but right now, I'm trying to soak in all that this beautiful season has to offer. I'm running into August at full velocity --- and wearing myself out in the process. 😂
I thought that my summer pace would slow down when my kids got older and I didn't have to worry about keeping them occupied and stimulated while they were out of school for the summer. I planned all sorts of fun activities for the kids but I always seemed to tire myself out long before they ever showed any signs of fatigue. 😂 Even when they were responsible for occupying their own time - I always had to keep my eyes and ears open. 😳 (If you've got curious, inquisitive kids - you know what I mean.) 😂 Supervising kids isn't always a physical task but no parent would disagree that raising kids is the most mentally challenging job in the world.
Summer is also the time when I channel my inner Clark Griswold and plan epic road trips with my family. After all, summer wouldn't be complete without our annual 15 hour car ride to Ohio. 🚗 #forcedfamilybondingtime
We've actually spent a considerable part of our summer on the road and away from the house this summer. It's been a great way for me to soak up all that summer has to offer but it hasn't been a great way for me to maintain healthy eating habits. Why couldn't I just crave celery like I do twizzlers in the car? Now that we're back home for at least a few weeks, it's time for this family to get back on track with our healthy eating.
This Pasta Salad with Chicken is a perfect summer dish because I can make it in the morning and it's ready whenever I'm hungry. It's also a perfect meal to pack up and take to the beach or the park. It's not the normal mayonnaise based gloppy, supermarket pasta salad that you're used to. This is a fresh, healthy protein packed pasta salad that your whole family will love. Even my daughter, who is adamantly opposed to olives, gobbled up her entire bowl of pasta salad.
Pasta Salad with Chicken
3 boneless chicken breasts
5 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
10 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/2 cup pepperocini, chopped
6 ounces penne or fusilli
8 ounces green beans, cut into 2" lengths
2 cups baby spinach (optional)
Add spinach and season with salt and pepper. (I completely forgot to add the spinach.) 😬
The kids in my neighborhood went back to school last week but I'm in complete denial about the fact that we've reached the end of our summer. My youngest child has one more week at home before she moves back to her apartment at college so here's to making the most of the next 168 hours!!
I have a lot of respect for French Toast. Sure it's crazy good but it's also a really ingenious (and efficient) use of ingredients. What else am I going to do with my leftover bread? Make croutons? Make bread crumbs? I do both of those things but I don't feel like either of those is the best use of my stale bread. I prefer to dip my stale bread in an eggy custard, brown it in butter and drench it with sweet maple syrup. The only thing better than having stale bread is having an overripe banana that I can turn into banana bread to go with it.
My only issue that I have when I make french toast is that I can't seem to make enough of it at one time. My largest skillet only holds 2 pieces of bread at a time so when I'm make french toast for any more than two people, we have to eat in shifts. That was until I ran across this recipe for Sheet Pan French Toast. This is genius. 8 slices of hearty, delicious, eggy french toast baked at the same time to perfection in the oven.
Sheet Pan French Toast
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup milk
8 slices hearty sandwich bread
Breakfast is served.
Does it surprise any of you to know that I've managed to single handedly tick off the workers at the deli counters of every grocery store that I frequent? It wasn't that hard really. I'll give you my secret. Order your favorite cold cuts by the slice instead of by weight. I don't intentionally try and annoy the deli workers. It's just easier for me to calculate the amount of lunch meat and cheese that I'm going to need for a deli tray by slice instead of trying to guesstimate the weight. And quite honestly, I figured that it would be easier for the employee to count to 30 than try and estimate the weight of any given meat.
Based on the extreme adverse reactions from grocery store deli employees, including everything from eye rolls to outright refusal, I can tell you that deli workers WANT you to order by weight and NOT per slice. (If there are any deli workers out there who might be reading this blog - please leave me a comment and let me know why my unconventional ordering is unintentionally aggravating the meat slicers.) My objective is not to annoy anyone - I just don't want to under or over-buy lunch meat.
If every person in my family is going to eat one sandwich with 4 slices of meat, I order 20 slices from the deli counter. I know it's borderline compulsive but I don't end up with excess meat that way. I'm not very good at estimating how many slices are in one pound of meat - hence my unusual ordering techniques.
Despite my best ordering efforts - there are times when we end up with more lunch meat in the house that we can use. And there are times when I'm fairly certain that the deli worker passively aggressively adds slices to my very precise order just to send a message. When that happens and our bread to meat ratio is off and we have an excess of meat - I make stromboli. It's a great way to use up extra lunch meat (and cheese) when you're tired of cold sandwiches.
1 recipe pizza dough
4 slices Swiss cheese
6 slices deli ham
6 slices deli turkey
4 kosher pickle strips
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
Bake 15 minutes at 450.
If you want to make this recipe even simpler - skip the dough making and purchase a pre-made pizza dough from the grocery store. If you start with a prepared dough - you can have this meal on the table in under 30 minutes.
Signing up for a camera class was one of the best ideas I never had. I did so much complaining about being an inadequate photographer to my husband that he finally got tired of hearing it and he bought me a gift certificate to the Atlanta School of Photography. His not-so-subtle gift was just the nudge I needed to get myself the help that I needed to improve my photography skills.
I hesitantly signed up for the most basic level workshop that the school had to offer and and invited a friend so I wouldn't have to endure the class alone. If I was going to look like a complete incompetent, I needed to bring along some emotional support. Even though my friend and I were confident that we were about to make fools of ourselves, we packed up our gear and headed to Atlanta for our 5 hour, intensive, hands-on camera workshop. What did we have to lose - except our pride?
Much to my surprise, we were not the most unknowledgeable students in the class. Our class was made up of 6 other inexperienced camera users just like ourselves. The instructor was amazing and at the end of the day our heads were swirling with terms like aperture, focus points and metering mode. Feeling overwhelmed with information, I feared that it would all be forgotten unless I started to practice right away. So, Ben and I spent the next several weekends practicing my newly discovered camera skills.
We scoped out the most picturesque places in Georgia. We visited majestic waterfalls and beautiful gardens - all in the name of experimenting with my camera. My family was SUPER patient with me while I honed my camera skills. They carried around all my gear and patiently waited 4-5 minutes for me to make all of the necessary adjustments to my camera to set up a single shot.
I had a great time snapping pictures of landscapes and people but I still feel most comfortable with food photography. There's no wining, squinting or moving from a cheeseburger. I've been doing it so long that I know how to put the product in the perfect lighting to avoid shadows and over exposure. With any luck (and lots of practice) someday, I'll be just as efficient at landscape and portrait photography as I am at food photography.
Today, I'm back in my comfort zone. Capturing the colors, the textures and the juiciness of this Brandy Chicken. I only wish that my photographs could capture the amazing aroma and intense flavor of this dish.
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon brandy
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Spread onion mixture around chicken and sprinkle with parsley to serve.
Clearly, brandy chicken isn't the most photogenic of food subjects. Even though the colors are monochromatic, this chicken is anything but bland. The rich brandy, onion sauce really takes this chicken to a new level.
Ben and I finally got our act together last month and made our way to this super trendy little breakfast spot in Athens that we'd been talking about for months. By the time we finally dragged ourselves out of bed and made the 40 minute drive to this popular restaurant, it was approaching 10:00 and to say that I was hungry, would be an understatement. When we walked through the door, an absurdly polite host greeted us with an infectious smile and informed us that there was a 45 minute wait for a table for 2! Did I mention yet, how hungry I was?
I have to admit that in a moment of weakness, our hunger took over and we considered ditching the whole idea of a swanky breakfast and fleeing to the nearest Waffle House and stuffing our bellies full of mediocre waffles. I couldn't help but wonder how much better these eggs must be if all these people were willing to wait for nearly an hour for their breakfast though. In the end - our curiosity got the best of us and we decided to join the hungry masses and wait it out to see just how great this restaurant really was.
I know you're dying to know what we thought of our long awaited breakfast so without further ado - here goes. Without going into details - we thought it was a good breakfast but ... probably not worth the 45 minute wait. Admittedly, the assessment of my breakfast was probably skewed by the fact that I was completely hangry by the time I was finally eating my food. It was a descent breakfast but probably similar to what I would have made for myself at home. Despite the fact that I was uninspired by my long awaited breakfast, I would still probably go back and give this little restaurant another try. (Next time, I'll bring snacks.) 🤪
What about you? Would you wait 45 minutes for a table at a restaurant to eat breakfast? I'm always up for trying new restaurants - even breakfast spots - but 45 minutes seems a little excessive even for the fluffiest of pancakes.
As for now, we're back to making breakfast at home on Saturday morning. These Croissant Breakfast Sandwiches are really good and certainly worthy of staying in bed for an extra 45 minutes. I can get up and make these tasty little breakfast sandwiches in the time that it took us to drive to the popular little breakfast joint. Delicious croissant breakfast sandwiches + more sleep = happy Amy.
Croissant Breakfast Sandwiches
2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
salt and pepper
12 small croissant rolls
1 (6 ounce) package sharp cheddar cheese slices
1 (9 ounce) package deli ham
Place sandwiches in a greased 9x13" pan. Cover with foil. Bake 15 minutes.
So the funniest part of the whole weekend breakfast ordeal was the fact that after we waiting the full 45 minutes to be seated at our table and another 5 minutes for a server to approach our table, my patient husband still hadn't decided what he wanted to eat. He literally sent the server away for another 10 minutes while he looked over the menu. 😂 45 minutes of standing in the waiting area of the restaurant and he never even thought about glancing at the menu to decide what he might want to order when we finally got a table. Clearly - he wasn't as hungry as I was. 🤣
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