mrs.b and her boys

embrace the chaos

Month: November 2015

GIFT IDEAS

It is always hard to think of something great to get kids for gifts. I always resort back to good ‘ol books. They can never have too many and how fun to find a new story they can get lost in. I will try to post more in the next few weeks as we are shopping for holiday gifts in hopes of helping you out with the kids on your list. {I may throw some in for the grown-ups too}

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This first book is perfect for this time of year. “Thanks for Thanksgiving” by Julie Markes teaches children {and grown-ups alike} the simple things to be thankful for. Even I find myself lost in the beautiful illustrations. There is also a page at the back of the book for children to write what they are thankful for. I promise the whole family will enjoy this one!

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“Tree Ring Circus” by Adam Rex is a wacky little adventure of a lonely ‘ol tree in the middle of nowhere and what happens as a traveling circus rolls through. This book is full of fun rhymes; it catches even the little ones attention immediately.

AMAZING NEW SIDE DISH

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As the holidays are approaching and you are sitting down to plan your menus, thinking to yourself that you need a side dish that is not so same ‘ol, same ‘ol OR simply looking for a vegetarian option to add to the table, take a look at my favorite new side dish. This broccoli is so simple, so delicious. My husband who does not love broccoli, absolutely loves this recipe. I have been told that you cannot really taste that it is broccoli, because of its many layers of flavor.

My vegan or dairy-free friends, you can simply omit the Parmesan cheese and it still tastes just as delicious. There is no sacrificing the flavor on this one.

This recipe was inspired by a similar one by the great Ina Garten. I tweaked very little to make this my own, because her original is just that good.

I hope you enjoy adding this to your buffet table this holiday season!

 

ROASTED BROCCOLI

 

2 bunches broccoli, cut into bite-size florets

6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin

Olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. fresh ground pepper

2 Tb. grated lemon zest

2 Tb. fresh squeezed lemon juice

3 Tb. pine nuts, toasted

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

 

Pre heat oven to 425˚.

 

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Place the broccoli on a sheet pan large enough for a single layer. Toss garlic and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast for 20-25 minutes, until crisp tender and lightly browned. Remove from oven and immediately toss with 1 -2 Tb. olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts and Parmesan. Serve warm.

QUESADILLAS

{The recipe with no recipe}

 

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We all loathe the nights that we are on the go, dropping off, picking up; some are going in one direction, others going in another. The easiest solution to “What’s for dinner?”, we think, is “Let’s just swing through that drive thru.” I am here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be. Quesadillas are such a great solution to that. You can prep them quickly and if you are on the go, wrap it in some foil to take in the car. Now, we all have those kids that just want a plain cheese quesadilla {boring & bleh!}, but there is a way to make us all happy with full tummies.

 

Quesadillas can be so versatile. You can have fun playing with different flavors. There is BBQ Chicken or Steak & Bleu Cheese. How about a hearty Vegetarian Rice or Roasted Vegetables with Goat Cheese? Use your leftover Pulled Pork or Sloppy Joe’s. I tell you, the options are endless! Just last night we tried a Reuben Quesadilla and it was delicious.

 

I have made them numerous ways: in a sprayed skillet, in the oven on a cookie sheet or in a Panini press. Choose what works for you, all ways are equally delicious.

 

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A couple tips for successful quesadilla making {that I learned the hard way}, is first, only work with one tortilla at a time, folded in half to a semi-circle. When flipping, you will get minimal spillage of ingredients. Secondly, always have your cheese on both sides of the fillings. It glues it together perfectly.

 

Another nice thing about quesadillas, is if you have time, to make extra, wrap them individually in foil, stack them in a zipper bag and throw them in the freezer for another night or a lunch. You just thaw them and warm them up. So simple, so yummy! Just serve them with some fresh veggies or fruit to balance the meal, and everyone is happy.

 

I will occasionally post one of my many quesadilla recipes. But you don’t have to wait for me, try your own flavors! As long as you have tortillas and different cheeses on hand, you’ve got numerous options to satisfy everyone’s palate. Heck, have a Quesadilla Bar for a fun easy meal when you’ve got family staying with you over the holidays!

 

Like I said above, there is no real recipe. But, here is the “recipe” for the Reuben ones we tried last night.

 

REUBEN QUESADILLAS

Tortillas

1000 Island Dressing

Corned Beef, chopped up

Swiss Cheese, shredded

Sauerkraut, wring out liquid

 

*To make it vegetarian, omit the corned beef and they are just as delicious!

BAKED ZITI

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I have tried so many {too many} Baked Ziti recipes over the years and have never found one that was delicious. They were all so dry and bland. I would sit and wonder why Baked Ziti is such a popular family meal. Then I came upon this recipe, tweaked it a bit and it is just {so} perfect.

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It is a great meal for families with picky eaters because it is simple ingredients with great flavor. Serve with a salad and it is a perfectly balanced meal.

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I normally make this on a Sunday, but if you have time during the week, it is a nice dinner to sit down at the table with anytime.

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I gave the boys just a simple salad that they like, but I made a delicious Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing for my husband and I to kick it up a notch. Now, if your kids are still not at a stage of eating salads {let’s face it, most aren’t}, just serve raw veggies on the side for them that they like – carrots, cucumbers, sugar snap peas.

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BAKED ZITI

 

16 oz. cottage cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese (separated)

Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

16 oz. ziti pasta

32 oz. jarred marinara sauce (usually 1 ½ regular sized jars)

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tsp. cornstarch

1 cup heavy cream (half & half works well too)

8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

 

Preheat oven to 350˚. In a medium bowl, whisk cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup parmesan cheese together; set aside. In a large pot, bring water to a boil over high heat. At boiling, add 1 Tb. salt to water, then add pasta. Stirring occasionally, cook pasta until just short of cooked through. Drain pasta and leave in colander; DO NOT rinse. Take pot directly back to stove top.

 

In a small bowl, stir cornstarch into the heavy cream; transfer to now empty large pot and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened; stirring often, 4-5 minutes. Turn the heat off and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 ½ cups of marinara, basil and ¾ of the mozzarella cheese; stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat completely.

 

Spray 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray; then pour in pasta mixture. Cover with remaining marinara sauce evenly. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Take a sheet of foil and spray with cooking spray; spray side down, cover dish of ziti. Bake for 30 minutes.

 

Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes; until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown a bit. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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SPINACH SALAD WITH WARM BACON DRESSING

 

3 oz. fresh spinach (mixed greens work too)

1 red onion, sliced and sautéed to soft and light brown

1 apple, diced (wait until serving to dice)

8 slices of bacon, chopped and cooked (reserve the bacon grease)

2 Tb. pine nuts

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 Tb. balsamic vinegar

1 Tb. white vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. brown sugar

¼ cup water

Ground black pepper

 

To make the dressing: In a sauté pan, warm up 3 Tb. of your reserved bacon grease and add grated garlic; cook until lightly translucent. Add the vinegars, Dijon, brown sugar and water; whisk to smooth consistency. Season with pepper to your taste. Once it is smooth and warmed through, add the bacon.

 

In your salad bowl, toss the greens with warm dressing. Then, top with onions, apples and pine nuts.

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*Feel free to switch up any ingredients in this salad. If you like almonds, great. I made it with apple because it is apple season, but feel free to switch it up for fresh mushrooms and hard boiled eggs. I even thought it would be good to dice the onion and sauté it in with the warm bacon dressing. Play around with it and make it your own.

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