mrs.b and her boys

embrace the chaos

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GRILLED ROMAINE & CORN SALAD

This Grilled Romaine & Corn Salad is one of the tastiest salads I have had in a long time. It is so fresh and so vibrant with flavors! It is the perfect summertime meal. Perfect for those that are trying to eat healthier but crave more flavor, and perfect for those nights you just do not want to heat up the house by cooking inside. Perfect for all those cherry tomatoes that are about start popping out of your garden. And how perfect that local sweet corn is now available!

This will satisfy my gluten-free friends, my vegetarian friends, and even my dairy-free friends can enjoy it just by simply eliminating the feta cheese. My husband is not one to relish in all my fancy salads with fancy vinaigrettes but he really enjoyed this one! I’m telling you, it satisfies the masses.

This recipe is for having the salad as a meal, but we have had it as a side to Elk Chops and Grilled Fish as well. {See tip below} I hope no matter how you have it, I hope that you enjoy it!

 

GRILLED ROMAINE & CORN SALAD

 

3 ears fresh sweet corn

3 Tb. + 1 Tb. olive oil

1 Tb. Dijon mustard

2 Tb. red wine vinegar

1 Tb. fresh chives, sliced

Salt & Pepper

1 head romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

 

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl whisk together 3 Tb. olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon and chives; set aside.

 

For the salad: Soak ears of corn with silks and husks still on in water for 45 minutes. Grill for 25 minutes over medium flame; turning occasionally. Husks and corn will brown slightly. Remove from grill and let cool slightly. Remove husks and silk from ears of corn. Cut kernels from the cobs.

 

Brush cut side of romaine halves with 1 Tb. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill cut side down for about 4 minutes or until slightly charred.

 

In a medium bowl, toss corn, tomatoes and half of the vinaigrette. Place a romaine half on each plate, spoon corn mixture evenly among romaine. Drizzle remaining half of vinaigrette over each salad. Top with feta.

 

TIPS:

 

*If you are making this as a side dish instead of a meal, I would use romaine hearts and half those. Your portions will be smaller that way.

 

*I have even grilled my corn a couple days ahead of time if I knew we need a faster dinner the night we were having this salad. It cuts down the prep and cooking time by about an hour.

 

*After I made this and ate it {ALL}, I thought it would be great sprinkled with toasted pine nuts!

THE PERFECT JUGGLING ACT

Finding the perfect balance in life. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? Is it even possible? I feel that I am always struggling to juggle it all just perfectly. I hear from a lot of people in my life that they struggle too. Everyone feeling they are lacking in different areas.

 

Balancing work and life, life and exercise, eating healthy food and eating food that makes your soul feel good, every day distractions and quality time with kids, homework and play time, extracurricular activities and letting them just be kids, television and reading, family and friends, sleep and the never-ending “To-Do List”, family table dinners and dinners on-the-go, saying yes to volunteering for that project and knowing you need to say no this time. Did I mention aging relatives with needs? Yard work? Time to ourselves with none of the above?

 

I know I struggle with most of the above {all.the.time}. Especially with wanting so badly to have time and energy to try new recipes, write new recipes and blog. It’s strange that the thing I love to do the most is put to the back burner behind all of life’s other happenings.

 

How do we perfect it? Can we ever? Or is it just always a juggling act and no one can do it all flawlessly? {Oh boy! That sounds a little Carrie Bradshaw-esque}

 

By the time I feel I have time to sit down with my laptop to write it is 9:00 at night, I am mentally and physically beat by then. All I want to do is collapse on the couch and veg out with some mindless show.

 

I have spent time over the years trying to find the magical answer on how to do it all. What I have to come to find, is there is no magical answer. We just need to do our best. And know we are not the only ones that struggle with juggling it all flawlessly. There may be times throughout the year that some things are better balanced then others. Then it shifts. We need to be aware when there are areas of our life where we are slacking and give that our energy. We cannot be perfect but we can still do a really great job trying to be.

 

One thing that helps me feel okay with not being able to do it all is my girlfriends, sister, cousins – and having real, open, honest talks with them. We are able to trust one another to be vulnerable to speak our truth and not feel we have to pretend our life is perfect. Because it is not really. And if she says it is, I’ll have what she’s having. {Ha!}

 

We cannot beat ourselves up because of the areas we lack and let it consume our mind. We need to adjust life’s needs accordingly and be at peace in our mind that it will all be okay in the end. We need to be satisfied and proud that we got five things done today and not beat ourselves up that we didn’t get to all twenty-one things on our to-do list. We must embrace the chaos of life and know we are doing the best we can.

 

“Some days you eat spinach and go to the gym, some days you eat ice cream and refuse to put on pants. It’s called balance.”

MAC-N-CHEESE

To bake your Mac-n-Cheese or not to bake your Mac-n-Cheese? That is the question. I think I have tried around 20 different homemade Mac-n-Cheese recipes in my lifetime and have never been blown away by any of them. I would get frustrated that I couldn’t get {JUST ONE} recipe that we loved. They would be tasteless, grainy or baked into dry shellac. I figured out about 15 recipes in that I did not prefer the baked variety. I need my Mac-n-Cheese to be creamy dreaminess. After continual disappointment, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I took parts of recipes I liked to come up with my own recipe. And that even took quite a few tries before getting it “just right”. But the other night, I {FINALLY} got it!

Now, my peeps, do not expect this to be low-fat or healthy in any way. This is mac-n-cheese, I’m not going healthy! In fact, it’s got a little of the cheese no one will admit they love, Velveeta. I did use quality white sharp cheddar and organic milk however. Does that help? {No?}

 

The best thing about this dish, something we can all appreciate, it comes together in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. How does it get any better then that?

 

MAC-N-CHEESE

 

1 lb. macaroni pasta

2 cups milk

8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed

4 oz. plain cream cheese, cubed

8 oz. white sharp cheddar, shredded

2 Tb. dry ground mustard

Salt & Pepper, to taste

 

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Cook macaroni pasta to al dente (it will continue to cook when you add it to cheese sauce).

 

Meanwhile, in a medium pot, warm milk on low for 5 minutes. Add Velveeta and cream cheese. Whisk occasionally as it melts and combines; about 10 minutes. Once it is smooth consistency, add white cheddar and dry mustard; whisking until combined.

 

Drain pasta and immediately transfer back to that same pot. Pour cheese sauce over pasta; stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Simmer on low for 5 minutes; until thickened.

 

Serve immediately.

STRAWBERRY SALAD with GRILLED CHICKEN

Spring has sprung, and it’s time we all crawl out of our winter hibernation. We have been eating heartier, heavy meals, wearing layers of clothing and staying in out of the chilled arctic air. Let’s shed those layers, open the windows and fire up the grill! It’s like a newfound freedom every spring.

 

We have been grilling every chance we get the last few weeks as the warmer weather decides if it’s going to stay or go. We have grilled fish {shockingly, the kids love it!}, burgers and chicken. The problem comes though that we eventually will get bored with what to grill. It gets to be “same ‘ol, same ‘ol” by the time summer rolls around. I decided instead of just grilling chicken with my Strawberry Salad as a side, why not TOP the salad with the grilled chicken? It was delectable! {that is my seven year olds word} It felt like we were eating lighter and healthier, but still walked away from the table with full bellies.

To my vegetarian friends out there, you can still make this delicious salad without the chicken. You could grill tofu or a nice grilled salmon would be tasty on top of it too.

 

The Strawberry Salad recipe originally came from a friend of mine years ago. I have tweaked it here and there, without changing its original flavor, just to make it easier to get on the table.

 

This is also the first salad I introduced to my kids when I felt they were old enough to step out of their comfort zone of carrots, cucumbers and avocado as their veggie choices. It was an immediate favorite. My nieces get giddy when they know I’m bringing it to family dinners and the non-salad eaters enjoy it too.

 

I make mine with spinach, but chopped romaine is nice for this salad too. Also, the original recipe called for sliced red onion. I tend to leave it out because the kids and I do not like it. If we have a gathering, I will slice some up and put it in a small bowl as an option for those that enjoy it.

 

STRAWBERRY SALAD with GRILLED CHICKEN

 

5 oz. pkg. fresh baby spinach

1 pint strawberries, stemmed & sliced

3 chicken breasts

2 Tb. olive oil

All-seasoning of your choice, we love SPIKE

¾ cup mayo

¼ cup milk

1 Tb. poppy seeds

2 Tb. raspberry vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

½ cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted

 

In a large bowl, combine lettuce and berries. Set aside.

 

Drizzle chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with all-seasoning to your liking. Grill until cooked through. Slice cooked chicken.

 

As the chicken grills, in a small bowl, combine mayo, milk, poppy seeds, vinegar and sugar; whisk until combined with smooth consistency.

 

Add small amounts of dressing to lettuce and berries mix at a time; tossing each time until you get desired coverage. (You may not use all of the dressing) Either top with the sliced chicken or toss it in before serving. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.

 

Serve immediately.

 

TACO NIGHT to NACHO BAR

Here is another dinner idea that does not require a recipe, but is actually a meal idea that gets you through to the weekend. By cooking a big batch once, you can eat twice that week.

 

Taco Night is very common in households. Taco Tuesdays have become popular in America. {Am I right?!!} But, have you ever made a double batch of taco meat and used half for your weekend Nacho Bar? {Awesome, huh?!!}

Do tacos during the week. They are the perfect dinner for those busy nights. Make the taco meat ahead of time and throw it in your slow cooker. Have all your toppings chopped and shredded. You can eat dinner as soon as you walk in the door or people can eat at their convenience as they come and go from activities and work.

Then, the weekend comes and you are having Family Movie Night, or a house full of teenagers, or friends over for the game and you need something fun to whip together with no fuss. You already have your taco meat in the fridge, add other fun nacho toppings and just like that you have a Nacho Bar for all to enjoy!

You can let each person make their own plate or like I did this last time, I made a big pan of chips, meat, black beans, queso and Monterey Jack cheese. Baked it at 400˚ until cheese was melted. Then, just scooped a pile on to each person’s plate and they topped them as they wished. It worked out so slick. And psst…my boys said they couldn’t even tell the black beans were on there! {I win!}

Listed below are the lists of what we like on our Taco Night and Nacho Bar, but feel free to use any additional ingredients you enjoy.

 

TACO NIGHT:                                                                                    NACHO BAR:

taco meat                                                                                              taco meat

tortillas or hard shells                                                                   tortilla chips

sharp cheddar cheese                                                                   chili cheese corn chips

lettuce or spinach                                                                           queso sauce

black olives                                                                                         monterey jack cheese

tomatoes                                                                                              black beans

avocado                                                                                                pickled jalapeno slices

plain greek yogurt                                                                          black olives

salsa                                                                                                        tomatoes

taco sauce                                                                                           plain greek yogurt & salsa

MEATBALL PIZZA FOR THE WIN

What to bring to the Super Bowl party? What to bring to the next neighbor get-together? What to make for the group of teenage boys invading your house this weekend? This is the delicious, simple answer.

My Meatball Pizza is hearty and will satisfy a hungry crowd. My boys who {only!} like cheese pizza were absolutely crazy over this. They were {so!} scared to try it and were {pleasantly!} surprised to discover it was a new favorite of theirs.

 

If you make your own pizza dough, go ahead and use it for this recipe. Otherwise, use your favorite store bought crust. I got mine from a great pizzeria downtown.

I use leftover meatballs from earlier in the week when we had Spaghetti & Meatballs or Meatball Sandwiches. Sometimes, I will freeze leftover meatballs to have for recipes like this. It is key to have them cold; they will slice better for you then if they are warmed.

In the small chance that there will be leftovers, this would be great to put in the kids lunch boxes throughout the week. Cold pizza is always a nice change up for lunch.

Now, head to your Super Bowl party – and like me, watch mostly for the wonderful and wonderfully stupid commercials. Oh! And don’t forget about the half-time show!

 

MEATBALL PIZZA

 

1 uncooked pizza crust

1-2 cups pizza sauce

10 cold cooked meatballs, each sliced in 3

2-3 cups shredded mozzarella

1 cup grated Parmesan

 

Preheat oven to 425˚.

 

On a greased large cookie sheet, use your fingers to press out the pizza crust to fit the sheet. (It may not reach all the way to the edges, but it should be close) Cook crust for 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven.

 

Slather the pizza sauce over the par-cooked crust; to your liking. Place sliced meatballs over sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over pizza and top with Parmesan.

 

Bake on the middle rack for 10 minutes; move to bottom rack and bake for additional 5-8 minutes or until cheese is cooked to desired brown.

 

Let it set for 5 minutes; serve immediately.

 

HOMEMADE PESTO with PASTA

There are certain things I am intimidated to even attempt making because they seem so unapproachable and complex in my simple mind. Like dough that needs to rise, or canning, or homemade pesto. The thing is, is that I have eventually tried all these foods that once stopped me in my tracks of cooking…And they all turned out to be simple and completely approachable.

Some may be more time consuming, but what I like about the pesto, is it comes together in 5 minutes and can be made ahead of time. Actually, if possible, you should make it ahead of time. As it sets in the fridge, it just gets better and better.

Another thing I like about pesto is it has so many possibilities for easy dinners. All you need is a food processor. Our new favorite {thank goodness, the kids finally liked something new} is Pesto Pasta. It comes together in the time it takes to boil your pasta. You can have it on the table even on the nights that are full of mad dashes all over town.

 

This pesto recipe will make close to four cups, but you will only need one to two cups for a pound of cooked pasta. The rest you can freeze in half-cup portions to have on hand to pull together a quick dinner.

 

 HOMEMADE PESTO WITH PASTA

 

6-7 cloves garlic, chopped

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup slivered almonds

5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1 ½ cups olive oil

1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 lb. pasta of your choice

 

In the bowl of your food processor, combine the garlic, walnuts and almonds for about 30 seconds. Add the basil. Then, with the processor running, pour in the olive oil at a slow, steady rate through the top tube, until well combined. Add the pepper, salt and Parmesan; process about 45 seconds until it all comes together.

 

Transfer to a bowl, cover and set in the fridge until needed.

 

When it is time for dinner, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and cook your pasta to your likeness. Drain, do not rinse, put back in pot and toss immediately with 1-2 cups of pesto. Add slowly, as to not over-sauce the pasta.

 

I serve it topped with fresh chopped tomato {but the hooligan’s pick around it!} and more fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

***REMEMBER to freeze your leftovers for another night.

A New Year & Homemade Soft Pretzels

It’s a new year! We all have goals for the 365 days ahead of us. Most always have something on their list regarding weight or health. Some want to be more organized. Others vow to give more to others.

 

Something I would like everyone out in the world to add to our list of goals is to spend more “time” with our family. I put the word time in quotes because I do not mean just time, empty time. I mean real, uninterrupted, not-over-scheduled time. Driving in the car from activity to activity or sitting at the table doing homework is not real time together. We need to sit down at the dinner table with our loved ones, phones not present, talk about the day and get to know each other on a deeper level. Listen to each other. Laugh with each other.

Now, I am not of the ignorance that this can happen every night, but we need to do this as often as we can in the week. In our family, all 4 of us sit down at the table to eat as a family about 4 nights a week. I know for others, 4 nights a week cannot happen. But the idea that I love and love to preach is making your “table time” work for a different time of day. If everyone is finally home and settling in at 8:00 p.m., make that your quality time together. Gather around the table for popcorn, yogurt dunkers or homemade soft pretzels.

 

Make it non-fussy. Popcorn can be homemade, microwave style or the premade stuff in the bag {no judgment here!}. Our yogurt dunkers are just toasted cinnamon bread topped with a little slather of butter and peanut butter, cut in 3 strips, and served with a small bowl of vanilla yogurt to “dunk” them in. And homemade soft pretzels can be made ahead of time and stay delicious for about 3-4 days. Again, buy them frozen if you want, but I have a simple recipe for you to try. They are fresh and you know what ingredients are in them.

 

Soft Pretzels are fun to make for any age. They sound difficult and intimidating, but I promise you they are simple. If you have the time or sanity left {just keeping it real!}, let the kids help. They love to roll them and figure out how to twist them the right way.

 

 

 HOMEMADE SOFT PRETZELS

 

1 ½ cups warm water

2 Tb. agave nectar (or whatever sweetener you like)

1 pkg. dry active yeast

6 Tb. butter, melted

2 ½ tsp. kosher salt

4 ½ – 5 cups all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil

3 quarts water

¾ baking soda

1 egg, beaten with 1 Tb. cold water

Sea salt or kosher salt

 

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray liberally with cooking spray.

 

In a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine water, agave, yeast and butter and mix until combined. Let stand for 5 minutes.

 

Add salt and flour; mix on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and let it knead until the dough is smooth and pulling away from the sides of the bowl, about 4-5 minutes. If dough appears too wet, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove dough from bowl, place on a clean, flat surface and knead with your hands into a ball.

 

In a medium bowl, coat it with the oil, add the dough, turning to coat in the oil. Cover with a clean towel and put in warm place for about an hour or until the dough doubles in size.

 

Preheat the oven to 425˚.

 

Bring the water to boil in large pot and add baking soda. Slowly, to take care to not let water over flow from the reaction to the baking soda.

Take dough to a floured flat surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope about 24 inches long. Take hold of each end, pulling up (in a “U” shape), cross each other and press ends into place. Boil two pretzels at a time in water-soda solution for 30 seconds; splashing the tops with the water. Remove pretzels with a spider or a slotted spatula. Place pretzels on lined baking sheets and brush the tops with the egg wash. Season with salt of choice.

 

Bake for 16-18 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire cooling rack.

Serve them salted and as is. Or you can throw in a side of queso, honey mustard or classic yellow mustard.

GIFT GUIDE 2016

Everyone is in the depths of gift shopping right about now as the holidays approach. There is always {THAT} one person who is hard to buy for and has you stumped. My list is full of ideas for everyone on your list. These are some of my favorites this year that I hope spark an AH-HA! moment for the loved ones on your list.

GUYS: Spices & dry rubs from local shop with a grill mitt, masculine apron or chef hat

LADIES: Subscription to The Magnolia Journal with a beautiful baking dish or Charcuterie board

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BOYS: Baseball Cap along with an item of the sport {i.e. Twins cap & a baseball, Carolina Panthers cap & a football, skater brand cap & Converse High Tops or a skateboard}

GIRLS: Sleepover Kit {Any combination of: paper lanterns, pinwheels, fun paper straws, matching cups, iTunes gift card for dance music, soda pop, chips, candy & bubble gum, ice cream sundae ingredients, Mad Libs, items for manicures & facials, scavenger hunt list}

BOOKS FOR KIDS:

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by: Karma Wilson – Sweet story of Bear and his friends celebrating Christmas as Bear fights to stay awake in the midst of his hibernation

Say Hello by: Rachel Isadora – A story of beautiful diversity as Carmelita walks through her neighborhood and teaches us Hello! in 8 different languages

The Mitten by: Jan Brett – A classic about wild animals finding warm refuge in a child’s lost mitten full of delightful illustrations

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A Series of Unfortunate Events series by: Lemony Snicket

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The Puppy Place series by: Ellen Miles

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Start a Lego Christmas Village: Giving a piece each year. You can find {limited time only} items online. I got this idea from my sister and her family. Note: Keep pieces together and in a bin off season – that way you don’t have to go through the pain of putting them back together every year.

Christmas PJ’s: For the kids each year. I buy them for my boys and nephews every year! Perfect photo ops!

Something to Wear, Read, Want & Need: A lot of people are liking this new idea that someone {not me!} came up with for kids. My oldest is to an age where he doesn’t want much for toys but not old enough for more electronics. My youngest wants toys but doesn’t need any. So, this is a great way for us to give to them this year. The idea is that they each get 4 gifts to open – one for each category. Works out nice with a perfect balance for all.

P.S. The gorgeous, incredibly soft blanket scarf in my photos above is from Target in the “Dollar Spot” for $7! Perfect for any teen or lady in your life!

Thanksgiving & an Appetizer

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving just came and snuck up on me this year! This time of year more then any other always has me deep in thought of what I am truly grateful for and then wondering when I am going to get a chance to have the boys do their “Hand-Print-Turkey-Feather-I-Am-Thankful-For” project that we do every year. I also always get a bit sad because my grandfather passed away on my birthday 15 years ago this month. I get giddy at the thought of jelled cranberry sauce. And start anticipating another great Christmas with my loved ones!

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year. I’ve got the basics, like a healthy family, a warm home and food in our bellies. That Steve and I are raising good, compassionate boys that are wonderful and difficult all at the same time. But I am also forever thankful of amazing friends; old and new. A job I absolutely love, although I make pennies. Of modern technology like FaceTime so I can see my nephews in Arizona & Wyoming grow up. The opportunity to share my favorite recipes with all of you on my blog. And silly things like Trader Joe’s chocolate covered peppermint JoeJoe’s, a good light read by Nancy Thayer & one of my favorite shows ‘Life In Pieces’. But the big one for me this year was to celebrate the finalizing of my sister and her husband adopting their boys. What a gift! It fills my heart. {And it was pretty full before}

Then, after all that pondering I start to go into planning mode of what to bring to Thanksgiving. Desserts? Appetizers? My favorite, jelled cranberry sauce? All of the above? The answer still is “I don’t know”. I know a lot of you are going through the same thought process right about now, and I have got a great appetizer recipe for you.

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This cheese ball is so good. It’s not the bland old fashioned kind that everyone passes over for the BBQ weenies. This is worthy of your appetizer smorgasbord!

 

CHEDDAR CHEESEBALL

 

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tb. mayo

1-2 Tb. Worcestershire sauce (I like more, but its to your liking)

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup chives, chopped (I’ve used dried, but fresh taste best)

 

Process the cheese and next 4 ingredients through the garlic in a food processor until smooth. Scraping the sides when needed.

 

Transfer the mixture to center of a large piece of plastic wrap. Bringing the corners together, wrap plastic tight around mixture and form into a ball shape. Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours or up to one day.

 

Put chives on a plate. Reshape ball and unwrap. Roll it in the chives; covering all but the bottom. Place on your serving plate or platter. Serve with crackers and vegetables.

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