So like 99% of the rest of the world, I have spent the last few days of 2017 looking back recapping on the last 365 days but also thinking about the new year of goals and ambitions. This year, one of my resolution’s is to expand my food and cooking rotation. Step out of my comfort zone and try new recipes that I normally would not try.
You have heard me talk about keeping a number of tried and true recipes in your rotation that you can always resort back to. And that is always my advice when I get asked where to start in the kitchen. Having a few staples is what will give you your sea legs and provide the confidence in your kitchen (along with your Quoco Now products!), at the end of the day to me, the end goal is to create delicious food and enjoy the cooking process. But once we reach that point of comfort, it is hard to venture out and try a new, ethnic or more difficult recipes. Trust me, I still get that way, it can be overwhelming. But have made it a 2018 goal to take on recipes that scare me and are out of my comfort zone, and I want to share my experiences with you!
Lucky for us, Pinterest came out with their list of top food trends for 2018. And since the social site is basically the ultimate Foodie cookbook, I trust their judgment when it comes to these types of things! Check out their list below and stay tuned as I try some myself.
If you have any requests for types of foods or there is anything you would like to see me try let me know! I am always looking to keep my viewers happy!
This weekend brought the first snowfall of the season, and I loved it! It was the type of snow that was beautiful to look at, fluffy big snowflakes, perfectly covering the ground and bare trees. It was the perfect excuse to stay inside all day to finish wrapping gifts and to cook (because what else would I do during a snow day!?)
I was feeling something hearty and delicious so I threw together one of my favorite soups from Skinny Taste (who literally doesn’t make a bad recipe), loaded baked potato. I love soup. I can eat it all year long and it definitely counts as a meal to me. Plus with a little help of Cauliflower, you still get an amazing creaming soup and don’t feel so bad going back for more. And what better to top it with crumbled bacon, cheddar, and scallions! I still don’t know which I like better, the soup or the toppings.
The best part is it comes together in 30 minutes and makes enough for leftovers the next day or for lunch, add a side salad and you’re ready for the week! And with the holidays quickly approaching having meals prepped and ready to eat is a huge time and stress reliever…I talk all about the holiday craze here!
So in case, you’re not feeling the Potato Cauliflower, here are some other easy go-to soups to keep you warm all winter long!
The holiday season is officially upon us and I am so excited! As you probably know by now, I love this time of year. There is just something about the music, lights, and celebrations that always makes December feel so magical (I think I have already been watching too much Hallmark). This weekend, we picked out and decorated our tree so it felt extra “Christmas-y” (Luckily M likes Christmas just as much as me). And since I have been a little MIA from the blog for a few weeks so I wanted to fill you in on my Holiday “breaks in routine”.
I will start out by admitting that I have been in a bit of a rut lately. Ever since Thanksgiving, I haven’t been on top of my A-game. Meals have consisted of leftovers, takeout or using whatever we had in the freezer/fridge. And being the type of person that I am, the lack of creative & balanced meals 24/7 coming out of my kitchen has definitely got the best of me. I started this blog as a place to share useful and easy kitchen tips and techniques when it comes to getting into the kitchen and what kind of example am I if I do not practice what I preach?
With all the hustle and bustle around the holidays, it is SO easy to get stressed and overwhelmed and I know I am not alone in this which is why I wanted to share. After a little self-pity, I have decided to go easy on myself for the next few weeks and not stress out about having every single meal of the week planned out or about bring in takeout after a busy day (and neither should you!). After all, I️ am working on building a dream into a reality so any extra time I can get will be put into sharing more content for you.
So if you too are feeling run down or that the holidays are stressing you out, take a step back and slow it down. I have come to realize that everything always finds a way to get done and we often stress for no reason. There is only so much one person can do in 24 hours and that doesn’t have to include everything on your to-do list.
Okay, you get the point, I’ll stop with the sob story! So, what does one do when they feel burnt out? Go back to basics and start out slow. Here are four of the area’s that I like reassess when I get stressed out to the max.
Planning Use whatever system works for you, but stick to it. I love google calendar, I can access it from anywhere and all of my devices are synced up to it. I will use it as an outline of what needs to be done and how I can manage to fit everything in. Start by the month. Are there any big events, projects or meetings coming up that might take up more time (or stress) than normally? Once you have jotted down the big ticket items break it down by week, what can you to accomplish this week that will ultimately help your end goal? From there you can create a To-Do list for each day that ties the week together. My rule of thumb is NEVER to have your To-Do list exceed 8-10 tasks. Otherwise, you may look at it and feel overwhelmed – which basically defeats the purpose of planning.
Preparation Preparation can be your best friend. When you know you have a super busy week coming up, it pays to be prepared. If your weeknights are filled, plan to have that week’s worth of dinners premade. Use the weekend to get your food shopping done. Plan out one or two meals that will allow you to have leftovers (ie crockpot or casserole). Lately, I️ have found myself meal prepping batches of chili (recipe & video coming soon) for quick filling meals during the week. Coming home after a long day knowing there is one less thing to worry about is a huge relief!
Flexibility This is always a tough one for me. It’s inevitable that things are not going to go the way we wanted them to 24/7. I am such an organized person that when things aren’t heading in the direction that I planned for I automatically begin to stress. I am lucky to have found someone who is the opposite of me and will always bring me back to reality and the reality is, we need to be flexible with our expectation of what is supposed to be. Things don’t always work out the way we hoped or wanted them to be and that’s OK too because good things happen when we least expect them.
Time for yourself
Last, but not least, it is non-negotiable that you must make time for yourself. Whether it is enjoying a meal out, spending time with friends and family, pampering yourself or even if it is 20 minutes in the morning while you drink your coffee. It is so important to relax and try to have fun, even if you need to plan it into the schedule. Life is too short and the last thing any of us want is to feel burnt out and miserable in a season that should be filled with joy (nobody likes a Grinch).
*I’ve got you covered for those last minute gifts – Don’t forget use HOLIDAY17 at checkout for 20% off your first month of a Quoco Now monthly subscription. Guaranteed delivery before the big day!
So in order to keep this a food-related blog post, here are some good go-to make-ahead meals for those busy weeknights. (FYI – all can be made ahead of time).
I freakin’ LOVE the holidays! Once November hits, I feel all the magical holiday feels. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there is something so nostalgic about this time of year (sitting on the couch watching Home Alone as we speak…Buzz your Girlfriend, woof). Anyway, I am pretty sure I have been counting down to Thanksgiving since before Halloween…thats the true Foodie in me, daydreaming about the one holiday dedicated to eating.
But it’s not just eating that makes me love it so much, it’s more about everything else that goes into making the day so special that makes me thankful. We host Thanksgiving at my parent’s house so the entire family is usually involved and working together. With such busy lives, it’s a great bonding time doing something we all love to do..cook. At this point, we all have our specialties and take charge to whip up a feast.
My mom is the master of stuffing (call if dressing if you prefer), she has it down to a science and while some may argue turkey is the pinnacle of Thanksgiving, I would have to disagree because who doesn’t love buttery, soft, herb-flavored bread and realistically when else do you eat stuffing?
My brother is a master of meats, the guy knows how to cook a bird. His precision and patience when it comes to cooking a turkey is a desirable skill. He never disappoints when he’s in the kitchen.
The sides are usually where I come in, I make a mean mashed potato…it’s all about a little TLC, well that and a healthy dose of butter. Along with mashed sweet potatoes, roasted Brussel sprouts and corn casserole
My great-aunt, Nancy is hands down a saint, every year (well and basically every holiday) makes two classic family sides, Artichoke Pie (artichokes, mixed with bread crumbs and parmesan to form a pie- ugh so good!), and Stuffed Mushrooms. We basically don’t let her over if either is not in tow.
Whether you are prepping for the big day or even for a fun Friendsgiving this weekend, I put together a roundup of some of my favorite Thanksgiving sides. Not only are most of these staples, but they are the perfect place to start if holiday cooking is new to you. It can be nerve-racking cooking for a crowd. The key is all about preparation, being prepared will get you far. Having all the ingredients ready and measured out ahead of time is half of the battle. Then it’s just following the directions and let the cooking magic happen. And by the way, it is totally acceptable to tweak and add ingredients, add more or less of a specific herb if you like. Trying to be health conscious and don’t want to use a pound of butter (sorta kidding) in your mashed potatoes? Cut the amount in half and add to your liking. Plus, the great part about all of these is they are easy, non-complicated recipes and perfect for transporting if your traveling…now, try not to get hungry while looking.
Stuffing ? Dressing? Whichever way you prefer, this herb-filled bread mixture is essential for sopping up gravy.
Are mashed potatoes not heaven on earth? Creamy, buttery, smooth deliciousness. I dare you to name me one person who is not a fan.
Only because you want to feel like your making a healthy decision every Thanksgiving needs some green, why not my roasted broccoli
Ok, for the kid in us all, a healthy scratch smothered is melted marshmallow.
Another staple for many. Gotta get your greens in some way, even if its creamy-crunchy green bean casserole.
I love a good brunch. It is one of those meals where it is perfectly acceptable to still eat breakfast after 12pm but also just as acceptable to have a glass of champaign (with OJ, of course) before noon. Brunch is also a great excuse to get together with girlfriends and sit for hours talking about life…while drinking Mimosas. There is just something about brunch on a Saturday that keeps me going during the week. Mostly because I rarely get to enjoy a full breakfast during the week, I’m either making a protein shake and drinking it on the way into work, or I’m sitting at my desk with a bowl of oatmeal. Don’t get me wrong, those two breakfast items are staples to my weekday routine, but it’s that monotony which makes thinking about a weekend brunch THAT much more enjoyable.
Although getting to see friends and gossip first thing on Saturday morning is pretty high up on my list; staying in and making brunch at home is at the top of my list. It’s more cost-effective, less crowded, I can make what I want and all while in my pajamas (I feel like I talk a lot about being in pajamas, I swear do actually get dressed in normal clothes). Anyway, my go-to dish is a Frittata. It is an Italian dish very similar to an omelet or a crust-less quiche. It is quite frankly is almost foolproof to make, can be whipped up in 20 minutes and makes enough to feed a crowd.
Frittatas are so versatile which is why they are so great, there is no right or wrong way to make one. You can make it using the ingredients you like or what is available in the fridge. Not a fan of cheddar, use mozzarella or go cheese-less. You have kale instead of spinach, make the swap. The best part is you can get as creative as you want with your add-ins.
Another reason why I love Frittatas is how perfect they are to make ahead for weekday breakfast. You can make a batch on Sunday during meal prep and be ready for the busy work week.
So whether you are planning a fab brunch or getting on top of the busy work week a frittata should be on top of your list.
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 cup spinach
5 small fingerling potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to an oven proof* nonstick pan, over medium-low heat add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until slightly soft.
After 5 minutes of cooking, add diced vegetables into the pan with the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and saute for the last 5 minutes.
While the potatoes and vegetables cook, in a medium bowl, whip the eggs until lightly combined.
Once the eggs have been beaten, mix in cheese.
Pour the egg and cheese mixture into the pan with vegetables and potatoes.
Let mixture cook on the stovetop for 1 minute.
Place pan into the preheated oven and cook for 10-12 minutes. The eggs should be firm.
Let cool before cutting into even sections.
Cut up some fresh fruit, pop the champs and brunch is ready!
*Don’t have an oven proof pan? That’s ok if your handles have a rubber coating, wrap a piece of tin foil around to keep them from melting.
Does anyone else wake up early on the weekends (even though you can sleep in) with the urge to start baking? Looking for a friend!
Lately, I have had the strongest urges to bake. I think it must have to be something with the fall, a warm-up for all the holiday baking that is to come over the next two months. But all week, I think about what delicious sweet treat want to whip up and indulge in over the weekend.
But I always end up with so much left over and once I’ve had a taste, I am usually (I use that term loosely) on to the next recipe and poor M, is left to with 3/4 of a pan of brownies to finish. I try to remind myself every time I bake to cut the recipe in half. It never happens.
Anyway, last week I was feeling nostalgic and decided I wanted to make a batch of old-school chocolate chip cookies. I was feeling fancy so I threw in a few peanut butter chips and some walnuts (M likes a little crunch in his cookies).
Honestly, I did not think these were going to come out as amazingly delicious as they did. Cookies can be tricky though, depending on your preference. They can be too crispy, too cakey, too dense or lacking flavor. I have made many a cookie in my baking career, many times for a quick sweet/chocolate fix and quite frankly they were half-assed, under-measured ( a reason why I love my new measuring cups) lackluster batches. But over time, and lots of research and learning through trial and error (see above), I FINALLY hit the jackpot. I was jumping for JOY in my tiny apartment kitchen when I took my first bite of this recipe.
Soft, a bit crispy, chocolatey, chewy, a hint of salt. Basically heaven.
We even had a friend of ours who is a professional baker try them out. I was expecting him to dissect them and come up with something that wasn’t perfect about them…but he didn’t! He was just as impressed with the recipe, the texture, and consistency. I was jumping for JOY again after he gave his review.
But I’ll let you decide what you think! By the way, the mix-ins are totally personal preference, if you just want to go straight up chocolate chips, have at it; if your not a nut person or allergic, they are completely optional. The fun part about cookies is once you have your base, you can add any mix-ins you like!
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and at room temperature)
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like using Nestle)
1/2 cup peanut butter chips (I like using Nestle) (optional)
1/4 cup crushed up walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 375
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda
3. In a separate large bowl, whisk brown and granulated sugar
4. Add melted butter into sugar mixture and whisk until evenly combined
5. Into the sugar & butter mixture, whisk in eggs one at a time, and vanilla extract until fully mixed into the batter
6. Into the large bowl, slowly combine the dry flour mixture into the wet sugar-butter mixture
7. Combine until ingredients have been thoroughly combined.
8. Stir in chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and walnuts until evenly distributed throughout
9. scoop the dough into 1/4 cup portions (I use an ice cream scooper) and add each scoop to a lined cookie sheet (I LOVE my reusable mat)
10. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes – the edges should begin to turn golden brown
Let cool and enjoy!
Bakers Note – IF you have extra time and can wait, let the dough sit in the refrigerator for 10 minutes before scooping and baking. This allows all the flavors to come together. Also, if you don’t want to be tempted by all 24 cookies you can pre-scoop the dough and freeze up to one month and bake when desired -give yourself a few minutes for them to defrost while you preheat the oven, before. Bake as directed above.
Now that it officially becomes dark at 6:30 pm, it seems like all of my motivation to get anything done flies right out the window. Please tell me I am not the only one who feels this way. The whole concept is kind of funny, because the number of hours in the day doesn’t change at all, yet once the sun goes down I get REALLLY tempted to put my pajamas on, pour a glass of red and watch Gilmore Girls re-runs. But then my guilt sets in as my To-Do list calls to me “Girl, we’re not going to do this ourselves!”, so I settle for a pair of leggings and a tee and bring my butt into the kitchen.
And don’t get me wrong, cooking is what I love to do; whether it’s for myself, my boyfriend or family & friends. I get so much pleasure watching other people enjoying food, especially if it is something I prepared. Growing up, cooking and eating is what my house revolved around. We would take any opportunity, big or small, to celebrate with food. My mother is a Home Economics teacher so my brother and I were taught the importance of how to cook for ourselves at a young age, and for both of us it just stuck and became a crucial part of our lives. Cooking is what calms me down, how I relax, and what I do in my downtime.
I know for many millennials I talk to, cooking for them is a chore, or they aren’t sure how to or where to start. It is easy to forget that not everyone has the same cooking experience that I have so to them, cooking is foreign, but it doesn’t have to be. I started Quoco Now and this blog with the goal to inspire the inner chef in us all, to feel confident in the kitchen, and to provide a toolkit of useful and innovative kitchen tools and utensils.
I’m not classically trained nor have I ever stepped foot into culinary school. I only have lessons learned from my amazing family, techniques acquired from watching cooking shows and following some seriously talented food bloggers and websites. It is my hope to be able to show my readers (or whoever stumbles upon this) that it doesn’t matter what you know, but to simply just start by using what you have. And if you don’t have much, that’s OK because most recipes can be modified to use whatever you have on hand, or what you like or whatever tools are in your kitchen (although we have a solution for that here).
Even I have nights after a long day that I just don’t feel like being creative or having to shop for food or physically doing the cooking. So luckily for us all, we have the slow cooker, a god-sent. When the evenings are dark and there is a chill in the air, the slow cooker is the next best thing next to flannels, Pinot Noir and some Dean vs Jess showdowns (Team Jess alll the way!).
All it takes is a little bit of prep and you are guaranteed to have dinner hot and ready to eat as soon as you walk in the door AND enough for leftovers. There are an endless number of slow cooker recipes online & Pinterest that I honestly believe you will find one that you will love.
I knew this week I would be busy in the evenings so I planned & prepped ahead and made the most delicious Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie. We are on night 2 of it and it just keeps getting better. Before you get scared, don’t worry because this recipe uses biscuits in place of pie crust (which isn’t everyone’s favorite to work with). I threw in all the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and by the time M and I walked in the door that night, we were drooling over the smell. For the most part, this recipe is a lightened up version (minus the biscuits – but a girl’s gotta live!) but JUST as creamy, flavorful and full of chicken and colorful veggies. It’s the kind of meal that you will always be glad you made!
Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie
2 – 2 1/2 lb boneless chicken breasts or thighs cut into approx 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup milk (heavy cream or whatever you have on hand)
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1/3 cup flour
2 large carrots chopped (can be replaced with frozen)
2 large celery ribs chopped
1 large onion diced
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon thyme (fresh or dried)
1/2 teaspoon rosemary (fresh or dried)
1/2 teaspoon parsley (finely chopped if fresh or dried)
1 package of store bought biscuits
salt and pepper
1. coat the slow cooker with olive oil, butter or cooking spray
2. place chicken pieces into the slow cooker
3. season with salt and pepper
4. in a medium bowl, mix together cream, chicken stock, flour, thyme, rosemary, and parsley until evenly combined
5. add in cream mixture into the slow cooker
6. stir in chopped onion and veggies (except for the frozen peas)
7. cook on LOW for 4 hours*
8. after 4 hours, stir in frozen peas
9. cook for another 30 minutes
10. in the meantime, cook biscuits as directed on package or until golden brown
11. serve immediately with a toasty biscuit. Once cooled can be stored up to 3 days.
*Slow cooker recipe cooking times can vary, and like me, depending on your schedule or your slow cooker model you may not be home to manually turn it off. I use an automatic timer for anything less than 7 hrs – it makes life a lot easier.
I’ve listed a few of my favorite slow cooker recipes: