Creamy, Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower

Mama Cheater Bite found this yummy recipe to make for Connor’s birthday dinner. While he didn’t eat much, the rest of us devoured it. Honestly, this could totally replace mashed potatoes for me. It had so much good flavor and the texture was great. And you are eating a big bowl of cauliflower…so its super healthy, right?

Anyway, it makes for a great side and reheats beautifully. And if you want to kick it up a notch on the indulgence scale, add some crispy bacon in there, too.
mashed cauliflower

you will need:
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 5 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup milk (I use 2%, but any fat content is fine)
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup sour cream (full or reduced fat)
¾ cup cheddar or monterey jack cheese, shredded
salt & pepper to taste
1 small bunch chives, chopped

Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the the chopped cauliflower until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Toss the cooked cauliflower into the skillet and toss. Mash the cauliflower with a fork or potato masher.

Add in the butter, milk and sour cream, continuing to mix and mash until combined. Be sure no big pieces of cauliflower remain. Add in shredded cheese and mix until combined. Continue cooking over low heat until nice and hot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Turn off heat and mix in chopped chives. Taste for seasoning and serve nice and hot!

serves: 6
time: 10 minutes prep + 25 minutes cooking
adapted slightly from: Host the Toast

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Buffalo Chicken Salads

In an effort to not let dinner be the thing that sets me over the edge after a busy day, I’m always on the search for delicious dinner salads that are filling and easy to throw together.  I came across Jessica’s recipe for homemade buffalo chicken nuggets and was super excited to try them. These salads are the perfect combo of crunchy and spicy. It’s fresh and delicious and has become a staple around here.
chicken salads
for the chicken, you will need:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
salt & pepper to taste
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons sriracha
1¼ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

for the salad, you will need:
6 cups of butter lettuce, chopped
2 carrot, grated
1 big handful of snap peas, cut in half
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 big handful cilantro, coarsely chopped
4 slices of crispy cooked bacon, crumbled
2 ounces gorgonzola, blue or feta cheese, crumbled

for the dressing, you will need:
½ cup ranch dressing
2 tablespoons sriracha
*Trader Joe’s also sells a really yummy prepared Sriracha Ranch dressing in a bottle to make this even easier 🙂

Preheat oven to 425° F, then line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top, spraying it with nonstick cooking spray.

Take chicken breasts out of the package and dry off with paper towel.  Place on a cutting board, and cut into chunks. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Whisk the egg whites and sriracha in a small bowl and set aside.  Combine the panko, flour, onion powder and garlic powder in a shallow bowl.

Dunk each piece of chicken into the egg white mixture, then into the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat evenly. Place pieces on the wire rack, then spray the tops with nonstick spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden brown. *You can also cook in a skillet in some olive oil if you want them ready faster.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the salad.  Combine the chopped lettuce, grated carrot, snap peas, onions and cilantro and mix well.  Put in large bowls, then sprinkle the tops with crumbled bacon and cheese. Whisk together the ranch and sriracha.

When the chicken is done, top each of the salads with 5 or 6 pieces. Drizzle the salads with the dressing and serve the extra on the side.

serves: 3-4
time: 15 minutes hands-on time + 25 minutes baking time
adapted slightly from: How Sweet It Is

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My Baby is THREE!

THREE!!!! How is that even possible?!? IMG_0975 My kid turned 3 on Friday. He does so many great things now that just amaze me. He’s silly and fiery and loving, and I still can’t quite believe I made him. He’s also a crazy little boy and has started asking “why” at least 100 times per day…God help me.

Connor requested chocolate cupcakes for his birthday dessert this year, and of course I happily obliged. He helped make these delicious cupcakes from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I should have included the “during” photo here after he dropped the whole bowl of dry ingredients all over the counter, floor and himself. Oh wait, I was too busy spazzing to take a picture…toddlers make everything really messy, and fun.
bday cupcakes They were super delicious and easy peasy to make. We took a bunch to school where he housed one at lunch and then another after dinner. The sugar high that night was intense. Can’t believe another birthday is in the books!

Back later this week with some yummy food!

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Yikes, that was a long break

So, I stopped blogging because it was stressing me out. Then I told myself I wouldn’t start up again until I really felt inspired to do so. And then I just didn’t for a long time.
mantra Sometimes, life can just be really hard. Things can happen that alter the coarse of our lives and complicate “The Plan.” The journey of motherhood has not been easy. Marriage is work; beautiful and worthy work, but hard work. Being a working mom can be painfully difficult. I’ve had to let go of being such a perfectionist and control freak over the past few years…and man, has that been hard for me. I am one stubborn human, that is for certain.

Now that Connor is turning three {someone PLEASE tell me how that happened!} my expectations of myself have changed. I’m embracing the mess of my life more, and I’m okay with not having my sh*t together all of the time. Do not mistake this with me now being a zen person. I am still the same spaz I always was, I’m just not apologizing for it anymore. I’m owning who I am instead of trying to be everything to everyone. I guess this is what happens when you turn 30?

I miss writing here, so I’m going to do it again. It might be about food, it might be about my kid, or it might just be about silly life things.

So if you are still here…thanks and you’re awesome.

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New England Clam Chowder

It’s cold. Snow and ice are everywhere. We’ve had the fire blazing constantly and are always snuggled under blankets. It’s the kind of weather that makes me want to eat big bowls of soup. All. the. time.

This chowder is hearty and delicious and surprisingly easy to throw together.  Serve it with lots of warm, crusty bread.  Or even these cheddar bacon biscuits.
clam chowder

you will need:
4-6 slices crispy bacon, chopped
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 leek, cleaned and (the white part only) thinly sliced
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 ½ tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
2 cups potatoes, diced
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups clam juice (or vegetable broth)
1 ½ cups little neck clams
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup half & half
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Place a saucepan over medium heat and brown bacon until crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Set the bacon aside to cool, then coarsely chop. Drain all but 2 tablespoons grease, then melt butter. Add onion and carrot and sauté for 5 minutes. Add leek and corn and continue to sauté for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Once onions and leeks are translucent, add thyme and potatoes and stir until combined. Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and stir well to create a thick roux, making sure all of the flour is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Continue to stir and cook for an additional minute to cook off the flour taste.

While whisking, pour clam juice (or broth) into the mixture in a steady stream until fully incorporated and no lumps remain. Turn the heat down to low and allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes, until the mixture thickens and potatoes are almost fork tender. You may need to add ¼ to ½ cup more clam juice if the mixture becomes too thick while simmering.

Gently fold in clams and slowly stir in milk and half & half. Allow mixture to simmer on low for 5 to 7 minutes more. Add garlic powder, cayenne and a bit more salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning according to your liking. Serve in large bowls and garnish with chopped bacon.

*Note: You do not want to cook the chowder too long with the clams in it, otherwise they will get chewy.  Also, use this within 2 to 3 days of making it.

serves: 4
time: 45 minutes
adapted slightly from: Spoon Fork Bacon

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Hello Lovelies.

As you can clearly see, I’ve been absent.  There are many reasons for this that I won’t bore you with…mostly because everyone is busy and I don’t want to whine.

The reason I will explain goes back to my October post about being a working mama.  I really have been trying to unplug; to savor moments with my family.  This means shutting off my computer, putting way my camera, and switching my phone to silent.

It also means that I cook less, or whip up super simple and quick meals that don’t even impress my toddler.  Also, it is dark when I get home from work and I hate taking photos in artificial light!

Sometimes my life is chaos.  Sometimes I don’t have any good recipes to share.  Sometimes all I have is a rant or funny story about motherhood or my tyrant toddler.

I have decided that instead of shying away from blogging about non-food stuff, I am just going to share.  Apologies in advance if that isn’t your jam…feel free to skip those posts.

Self-improvement goal for 2015: work with and embrace what is currently happening in my life instead of always aspiring for perfection.
stress (source)

Thanks for being here.  I love you.

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Spicy Stuffed Pepper Soup

I’m drowning in ground beef.  That sounds really disgusting and terrible, sorry for the unappealing visual image.  But we have A LOT of ground beef in our freezer, like I’m talking 30-ish pounds.  We went halvsies on a half of a cow with our friends, and man, that’s a lot of meat.

I’m trying to think of ways to use the ground beef in ways other than meatloaf and burgers.  I started researching soups and found lots of renditions of a stuffed pepper variety.  So after some research and some digging through my fridge, I threw this together.  It really warms you up on a chilly day and packs a nice little kick of spice.
stuffed pepper soup

you will need:
1 pound ground beef
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon smoked hot paprika (regular paprika would be fine, too)
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large or 2 medium sweet red or yellow peppers, chopped
1 large or 2 medium poblano peppers, precooked, skinned and chopped*
1 – 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 cups beef broth
1½ cups cooked brown rice
sour cream & chives for serving

In a large saucepan, brown the beef over medium-high heat, draining off the excess liquid.  Season with cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper then let brown a bit more.  Reduce heat to medium, and add the olive oil, chopped onions, garlic and sweet peppers and sauté for about 8 minutes, stirring every so often.

Add poblano peppers, tomatoes and broth.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Add in cooked rice just before serving.  Serve in bowls with a dallop of sour cream and some chives.

*I just throw mine on the grill until they are charred, then cover with plastic wrap for 20 minutes, peel and chop. Here’s a helpful post for roasting poblanos from This Gal Cooks.

What do you think?  What are your favorite recipes that use ground beef?  Please share!

serves: 6
time: 40 minutes
cb original recipe

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Good Eats {Travels}: The Ordinary

Our trip to Kiawah was glorious for so many reasons.  One of those reasons was date night.  Matt and I hadn’t gone out on a date for months.  When planning our vacation, I researched Charleston restaurants and debated where to make reservations for our big night out.  I settled on The Ordinary. It seemed like a great date night spot where we could eat food we love but don’t often get to enjoy in Pittsburgh.
The Ordinary I must say, it surpassed my extremely high expectations. The food was absolutely incredible, the ambiance sophisticated but not snooty, and the service impeccable.

We ordered a variety of different small plates and ate every last bit.  We had: Crispy Oysters + Beef Tartare, BBQ White Shrimp with Charred Bread, Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Toast with Lemon & Aioli, Shrimp Gazpacho and of course a dozen oysters and of course dessert.
The Ordinary food collage The BBQ shrimp was the most delicious shrimp I’ve ever had…it was my favorite food of the night.  I also really enjoyed trying the raw oysters.  I’ve been afraid to really dive into them before, as I worried that the texture would be too slimy and the flavor too salty.  I was pleasantly surprised at the layers of flavor and the freshness.  I wouldn’t say they are my favorite kind of seafood, but I am much more open minded to them now.
The Ordinary interior I will certainly go back to The Ordinary again and plan to the next time we visit Charleston.

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On Being a Working Mom…

Motherhood is amazing.  I am constantly in awe of my child and can’t believe how much joy Connor brings to my life.  Just today, I said to Matt, “can you believe we made this kid? How amazing is that?”  I have so much love in my heart when I look at him.  I want to be there for every new thing he does.  My weekends with him fly by so quickly.
mama baby time

This working mom gig is hard.  Way harder that I would have ever imagined…like heartbreakingly hard.  And most days I really like my job.  I am extremely passionate about teaching and feel like I really do make a difference.

Despite feeling very strongly about what I do as an educator, it is extremely exhausting.  I often work 10 hour days, teaching and mothering squirrely middle schoolers.  I usually shove my lunch in my face in less than 10 minutes and don’t sit down for more than 15 minutes all day. When I get home, I try to spend quality time with my boys.  If I can muster up the energy, I’ll cook dinner.  I savor every minute of our bath and bedtime routine, especially since I don’t get to see little boy in the morning.  On most nights I do an hour of work after Connor is in bed.  I try to spend some quality time with my husband before getting 6 or 7 hours of sleep before I do it all over again.  It makes me wonder what in the world we did before we started a family when we thought we were so busy.

On rough days, it is really difficult to remind myself why I spend so much time away from my kid.  It is really easy to get caught up in the cycle of stress and negativity.  It is really easy to feel like I need to take care of everyone else all of the time.  As I get pulled further into that cycle, I continue to not take any time for myself…which in turn makes me a perpetual cranky person, particularly to those closest to me.

I work with a really wise woman who has become a friend that I lean on often.  She says that people have unlimited wants, and if I continue to say yes to people they will continue to ask.  I am figuring out how to say “no;” how to know and respect my limits.  I appreciate her wisdom and her friendship.  It’s because of friendships like hers that I have survived the past 16 months as a working mama.

At the end of the day, I work to help provide for my family.  I work to be an example for my son, to show him that passion and dedication can make the world a better place.  I am trying to get better at unplugging from my phone and computer when I’m at home and really being present for every moment I have with my family.  I am trying to live in the moment and embrace the chaos of life.  I am trying to be gentle on myself and throw away this have-all-my-shit-together version of what it is to be a working mom.

I don’t think it will ever be easy, but I think I can get better at managing my stress and developing some sort of balance.  How do you other working mamas survive, have some sort of balance and manage to do something for yourself once in a while?  Share your wisdom!

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Good Eats {Travels}: Beasley’s Chicken & Honey

On our drive down to Kiawah, we stopped in Raleigh to visit friends of ours.  They took us to dinner at Beasley’s Chicken & Honey for a delicious, Southern dining experience.  I have never fancied myself a huge fan of fried chicken, but holy cow, this stuff was ahhmazing.

The ambiance is fun and relaxed.  Daily food and drink offerings are presented on giant chalkboards on the walls.  Drinks are served in mason jars.  The place was bursting at the seams with people of all ages, loud children included.  My kind of place.

Beasleys I ordered the chicken and waffles and was completely astounded at how much I loved every bite.  The chicken wasn’t oily and was perfectly cooked.  It was drizzled in delicious honey.  For a moment, I seriously considered licking my plate.

chicken & waffles If you have a chance to eat at Beasley’s, do it.  Order the crispy cheese grit fries and some fried chicken.  You will not be disappointed.

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