Comfort Food and Family Time

I felt like this day would never come. After a week that just kept dragging on and on, I could hardly believe it when the school bell rang at 3:00. My dad has always said it’s good to have something to look forward to, and I was certainly looking forward to this weekend. 

This weekend is great for two reasons:

  1. I got home to find this lovely surprise from my husby. He knows me so well!  
  2. I got to head down to my alma mater with my mom tonight to spend some time with my sister and participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s!

After battling torrential rains, sidewalk rivers, and nearly getting struck by lightning, we finally arrived at ISU just in time for dinner. My sister had prepared a comforting family recipe that hit the spot after running through the rain (in soggy flip flops). This meal is perfect for a stormy night in, conversations that continue around the dinner table long after the dishes have been cleared away, and for spending time with the ones you love. Hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Chicken Pot Pie

  
What you’ll need:

  • Pillsbury pie crusts 
  • 2 cups diced chicken
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup 
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup frozen beans
  • 1 can mixed vegetables
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place one pie crust on the bottom of a pie pan.
  3. To make the filling, combine remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir.
  4. Place filling into the first pie crust and cover with the second pie crust. Pierce crust with a fork a few times.
  5. Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. 
  6. Remove from oven and allow to set/cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

In order to prevent the edges of the crust from becoming too dark, my mom always used one of these nifty tools when she would make this recipe. Covering the edges with foil would also work.

I can’t think of a better way to start the weekend than by enjoying a delicious meal with my favorite ladies! Despite the rain, my mom, sister, and I are enjoying being in each other’s company again. Are there any recipes you enjoy making on a rainy day? 

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Savoring Summer

Well it’s official, I saw my first pumpkin spice commercial on television tonight. Come on, people! Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin, but in no way does September 1st qualify as fall. We still have 22 sweet days of summer left and I plan on enjoying them while they last! Before we know it fall will be over, pumpkins will be covered in snow, and we’ll be wishing we were back in the summer sun. So let’s enjoy our current season, shall we?

In order to celebrate the last few glorious days of summer, I wanted to share a recipe using a seasonal ingredient that can truly only be enjoyed in the months of July and August – sweet corn. This Mexican corn salad is a great dish to bring to a family gathering, outdoor barbecue, or to pass around the dinner table. It is light, refreshing, and to me it practically embodies the season of summer. My husband and I brought this dish to a cookout with some friends from college that we hadn’t seen in a while. Warm weather, delicious food, and time to spend with family and friends is what summer is all about. Maybe you can use this dish as inspiration for one last summer get together before the pumpkin spice tidal wave hits.

Mexican Corn Salad

Mexican Corn Salad

What you’ll need:

  • 4-5 large ears of corn
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco
  • 1/4 cup cotija cheese
  • 3 tbs fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • lime juice
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Soak corn in husks in a large pot of water for 20 minutes to an hour. Set grill to medium/high heat.
  2. Remove corn from water and grill for about 20 minutes, turning every five minutes or so.
  3. Once the corn is cooked, remove from husk and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  4. While the corn is cooling, chop the red onion and cilantro.
  5. Carefully slice the corn kernels off of the husk and into a large bowl.
  6. Add the onion and cilantro to the bowl of corn. Sprinkle cotija cheese, queso fresco, and paprika into the bowl and toss to combine.
  7. Season to taste with lime juice, salt, and pepper.

corn salad

Make this salad, call up some friends, get outside, and enjoy the warm days we have left before fall really starts. Do you have any go to recipes that you use for summer gatherings? Let me know in the comments below!

Saving Time to Make Time

Well that was quick! School season is back in swing. While I am still waiting for my official first day of school, the last few weeks have been full of meetings, trainings, classroom setup, and planning! With the start of the school year and grad school combined, my social life is taking a major hit. This blog is supposed to serve as an outlet for me to reconnect with loved ones and eat delicious food at the same time. However, sometimes a quick and easy recipe provides an opportunity for more time to be spent with those you love.

During the school year, mornings are precious. I savor each second of cozy, blankety bliss before the alarm clock begins to sound. Time is of the essence during my weekday mornings and if I have to spend too much time making meals for my husband and I, I can lose out on time that could have been spent enjoying the company of my sweet little family. I’m sure many of you out there are familiar with the weekday morning rush as well, so hopefully the recipe I am about to share will provide you with a few extra minutes of morning relaxation before you have to run out the door.

Make-Ahead Egg Muffins

What you’ll need:

  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I usually use mozzarella or cheddar)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Non-stick spray
  • Mix-ins! (Get creative with this! I will provide my top two combinations of fillings, but feel free to fill your egg muffins with whatever you like!

What to do:

  1. Typically on Sunday night I will prepare the egg muffins. This way they are done and ready to go before the craziness of the week begins and I can count on having a quick meal each morning.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Crack eggs into a large bowl. Using a whisk, beat the eggs for about a minute until the yolks are dispersed and it appears frothy. Season to taste with salt and pepper – I am my father’s daughter and like LOTS of pepper!
  4. Coat a muffin tin well with non-stick spray. Add enough egg to fill about 1/3 of each muffin cup.
  5. This is where you can customize your egg muffins! These are my top two favorite ways to fill my egg muffins:
    1. Egg Muffin Combo #1: cheddar cheese, steamed chopped broccoli, cooked diced ham.
    2. Egg Muffin Combo #2: mozzarella cheese, cooked ground sausage, sautéed yellow onion, oregano.
  6. Using whatever ingredients your heart desires, fill another 1/3 of the each muffin cup with your filling mixture.
  7. Use a fork and gently combine the egg and filling. If you’re like me, and you believe cheese is it’s own food group, sprinkle a little – or a lot – of extra cheese on top of each muffin cup.
  8. Place the egg muffins in the oven until cooked through. The eggs will have puffed up and won’t have a wet center.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Don’t be sad if the egg muffins deflate once they’ve been allowed to sit. It happens.
  10. Place egg muffins in a tupperware lined with parchment paper and store in the freezer. Now, each morning you can remove an egg muffin from the freezer and pop in the microwave for 30 seconds to enjoy a quick and easy breakfast.
Pour egg mixture.

Pour egg mixture.

Add your mix-ins. Mine were sausage, steamed broccoli, and mozzarella cheese this time.

Add your mix-ins. Mine were sausage, steamed broccoli, and mozzarella cheese this time.

Gently combine with a fork.

Gently combine with a fork.

Bake at 350 degrees.

Bake at 350 degrees.

Store in the freezer for a quick and easy breakfast each morning of the week! Notice that I separated the two layers of muffins with a piece of parchment paper.

Store in the freezer for a quick and easy breakfast each morning of the week! Notice that I separated the two layers of muffins with a piece of parchment paper.

I found that preparing egg muffins for breakfast ahead of time gave me time in the morning to relax, enjoy a cup of coffee on the couch with my husband and puppy, and watch a bit of the WGN morning news. I can’t think of a better way to begin my day than spending more time being present in the lives of my family and enjoying a no-fuss, quick and easy breakfast while I’m at it.

How do you spend your weekday mornings? Comment below if you have any time-saving tricks for morning routines!

Celebrating With Cubanos

When I celebrated my 25th birthday at the end of July, I wanted nothing more than to spend time with my two favorite things – food and family. I spent the day at Fontana Beach in Wisconsin with my husband and sister and then invited my family over for dinner. Our menu was inspired by a movie my husband and I had recently watched, Chef. If you’re looking for a feel-good, foodie movie, go ahead and give this one a try. I guarantee you will watch the credits roll with a goofy smile on your face! While there are many mouth-watering, insanely good looking meals in this movie, there was one sandwich in particular that I wanted to give a try – the Cuban (aka Cubano). This sandwich is relatively easy to make and so delicious! With crusty bread, tangy pickles, and melty cheese, the cubano is sure to please! (Can you tell I’m a kindergarten teacher? Hear that rhyme I did there?) 

Time to set the mood and get cooking!

Sandwich Cubano

What you’ll need*:

  • crusty bread (preferably Cuban bread, but a french baguette works, or if you use what’s in your fridge like I did – sourdough!)
  • sliced ham
  • sliced pork (I used pork shoulder)
  • swiss cheese
  • yellow mustard
  • dill pickles
  • butter, softened

*Side note: I did not list measurements along with the ingredients because I’m pretty sure you know how much meat, cheese, and condiments you like on your sandwiches. I also think you’ll be able to adjust the amount of ingredients you use based on how many people you are serving. I believe in you!

What to do:

Before I begin listing the steps, we’ve got to talk about what makes this sandwich special. This sandwich is intended to be pressed, resulting in a golden, crusty bread that gives the Cuban a satisfying crunch with each bite. If you have a sandwich press, lucky you! Who actually owns a sandwich press though?? Unless you live at Panera, to which I will say again – lucky you!! I do not own a sandwich press. However, I do own two cast iron skillets. If you don’t own two cast iron skillets, please purchase them here. And then I guess you could probably just use two regular old sad pans instead.

  1. Heat two cast iron skillets on the stove. Get them nice and hot! Then please be very careful and use oven mitts while handling them.
  2. Slice your bread in half. Butter one side of each slice of bread (this will help it get that amazingly golden-brown crunch).
  3. Evenly spread mustard onto the unbuttered side of both slices of bread. You are going to get butter on your cutting board and that’s okay.
  4. Layer the ingredients on one slice of bread in this order: ham, pork, pickles, swiss cheese.
  5. Place the second slice of bread on top and gently set in a cast iron pan. Using oven mitts, lift the second cast iron skillet and place on top of the sandwich. Don’t press down right away, let gravity do it’s thing for a bit. If you press down too hard, too quickly it could potentially displace some of the sandwich’s precious contents and believe me, you don’t want to do that!
  6. Once the sandwich begins to settle, press the skillet down for a bit.
  7. Carefully remove the top skillet, make sure the bread has achieved that glorious golden-brown glow, and remove the sandwich from the bottom skillet.
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut the sandwich in half, triangle style.
  9. Scarf it down.

 

Cuban Sandwich

 

I’m going to be honest with you. I wasn’t able to get any really great pictures of these amazing Cubanos because I was too busy shoving them into my mouth as quickly as I could. I did however get to spend my birthday in a gloriously hot kitchen, smashing sandwiches between cast iron skillets, laughing with my family, and enjoying a delicious meal. Though I usually request what dish I want for my birthday, making dinner for my family was a great way to celebrate. To me, nothing is better than showing your family how much you love them than by feeding them. Like I said, two things I hold close to my heart – food and family.

My sister and her boyfriend enjoying their Cubanos!

My sister and her boyfriend enjoying their Cubanos!

Do you have a special food you like to enjoy on your birthday? Feel free to comment below and tell me about your favorite birthday meals and traditions!

Taking Time and Eating Tacos for Breakfast

The new purpose of this blog is to reach out to friends and family and spend time together (preferably in the kitchen with delicious food of course). I originally thought the majority of loved ones I’d include in my posts would consist of friends living in different cities, or family I haven’t seen lately, but sometimes it’s the people you live with that you forget to actually spend time with.

Impossible! I’m around my husband all the time, how am I not spending time with him??

Part of the reason is because he just got back from a trip to Las Vegas, a bro-cation if you will, and the other reason is because I have been locking myself in random rooms around the house reading articles for grad school. Either that or I’m on the couch with an article, laptop, textbook, pile of highlighters, etc. in my lap. Regardless of what is distracting me, I may be in the same general vicinity as my husband, but haven’t really been spending any quality time with him.

Kev got back from his getaway earlier this week and I decided yesterday morning that I’d celebrate his return by making breakfast to eat at the table together. This is a tradition we both decided early on we wanted to uphold, sitting at the table to enjoy our meals without a TV negating the need for conversation. I had a few ingredients in the fridge that screamed “GRILL ME!” and I had to oblige. I decided on steak and eggs tacos with guacamole for breakfast and it turned out to be the perfect meal to wolf down and converse over at the table with my husband. Food is the perfect sentence starter in my opinion.

 

Steak and Eggs Breakfast Tacos

Steak and Eggs Tacos

What you’ll need:

  • thin cut steak
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • fajita seasoning packet*
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cheese, shredded
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 avocados
  • salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • lime juice

What to do:

  1. Set the grill at high heat.
  2. Place steak in a gallon sized ziplock bag. Add oil, lime juice, garlic, about half of the fajita seasoning packet, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  3. Seal the bag, tightly, believe me you want to make sure the zip has actually locked!! Then you can squish the meat and other marinade ingredients around to combine. Lay flat in the refrigerator, check it one more time to make sure the bag is closed, you don’t want this leaking all over your fridge, and then let it rest while you prep the other ingredients.
  4. Now you can start making the guacamole. I keep mine very simple, but feel free to prepare it how you like. Cut two avocados in half, remove pits, and scoop out into a bowl. Season avocados to taste with salt and lime juice.
  5. Using a very sophisticated tool, a.k.a the backside of a fork, mash up the avocados and stir to combine the seasonings. I like my guacamole to be a bit chunky as opposed to smooth so a few good mashes will do.
  6. Add cilantro to the guacamole and stir to combine. It’s always important to eat a couple spoonfuls of guacamole at this point to make sure there’s enough salt/lime juice/not poisonous.
  7. Place the guacamole in the fridge.
  8. Since we’ll be cooking on the grill, it’s a good idea to gather up all ingredients and bring them outside before you start grilling. This way you’re not running in and out of the house constantly and letting 17 mosquitos into the house. Place eggs, tortillas, cheese, and butter on a plate and set it next to the grill for easy access. I also got smart this time and brought out a bag for garbage which I hung on the end of the grill ledge. Grab your marinaded steak and an extra plate and bring that out to the grill as well. Grilling Prep
  9. I used a cast iron skillet on the grill to cook my eggs. If you don’t have one of those, then you need to go buy one. In the meantime use your stove. Add butter to the skillet and let it melt completely before adding your eggs. Cook yolks to desired consistency, flip and add shredded cheese on top until melted. Fried Eggs
  10. While the eggs are cooking, remove steak from the ziplock bag and place it at a 45 degree angle on the grill grates. This is very thin steak so I only needed to cook it for a minute or two before flipping. This is why it’s important that your grill is at high heat, then it can get a good sear quickly, without over-cooking. Steak and Eggs
  11. Remove steak and eggs and throw your tortillas down on the grill until they have some lovely grill marks.
  12. Here comes the fun part! Assembly. For delicious breakfast tacos please follow this order: tortilla, guacamole, steak, egg, eat.

Tortilla

Guacamole

Steak

Steak and Egg Taco

 

Hopefully these tacos will inspire you to sit down for breakfast with someone you love. Comment below to let me know what breakfast dishes you like to share with friends and family!

A Season of Revival

It’s now July and several seasons have come and gone. I am reviving this blog with a deep breath and a purposeful approach.

Before I tell you what the new purpose of this blog will be, I have to update you on the season in which I currently reside. As of this spring I began a new adventure in my professional career – grad school. I am joyfully overwhelmed with information, ideas, assignments, and a desire to grow, but am also realizing that time spent with family, friends, and my personal hobbies has fallen by the wayside.

In order to be present in the lives of those I love, and take time out for myself, I will be making an effort to invite friends and family into my home to cook and do life together and post about our experiences through this blog. I hope A Different Season will inspire you to reconnect with loved ones you haven’t seen in a while and have a great meal while you’re at it!

I can’t wait to jump back into the adventure of blogging and I hope you’ll join in with your own recipes and ideas on how to make time for your loved ones.

Let’s do this.

Maggie

Squash Five Ways in Five Days – Day 2

What’s up people?? I am sticking to my guns and as promised will be providing you with another tasty squash recipe. I don’t have a whole lot of time to dedicate to today’s post so I’m keeping this short and simple – like the recipe itself!

Baked Acorn Squash “Fries”

acorn squash fries

What you’ll need:

  • one acorn squash
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the acorn squash in half. Scoop out the guts and seeds.
  3. Place acorn squash cut side down and slice horizontally to keep the scalloped edges (because they’re pretty – duh).
  4. Cut the slices in half for smaller “fries”.
  5. Place the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Toss the squash around a bit to coat.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until tender (baking time may vary based off of the thickness of your squash slices). The parmesan cheese should be a bit crispy and golden brown when done.
  7. Eat!

These “fries” are almost as addicting as the real thing. They were supposed to be a side dish, but the husby and I ended up standing over the stove and eating every last one in a few minutes. Which I was completely okay with.

Enjoy!

Squash Five Ways in Five Days – Day 1

Hello world! Ready for day one of some great fall recipes?? I bet you’ve never been so excited about squash in your entire life.

Now I don’t know what the weather is like in your neck of the woods today, but here in sweet home Chicago it is cold and windy (go figure). The squash recipe I decided to use as my five day challenge premier is a comforting side dish that will keep you warm on chilly fall nights like this – butternut squash gratin. This is a melt in your mouth kind of side dish that will compliment any fall meal. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did!

Butternut Squash Gratin

squash gratin

What you’ll need:

  • 1 large butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until softened.
  3. While your onions are cooking, prep your squash! Peel, cut in half, remove guts and seeds, and chop into 1 inch cubes. I’m making this sound easier than it actually is. But hey, look! You get pretty squash spirals when you’re done!squash spirals
  4. Place squash in a microwave safe bowl and add about 1/2 cup of water to the bottom. Microwave for about 5 minutes or until tender. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Okay?
  5. Drain squash and add to the pan with onions and thyme.
  6. Sautee the squash and onions for a few minutes, season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the chicken stock. Cook until the stock is mostly absorbed – about 5 minutes.
  7. Gently stir in heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Cook until slightly thickened.
  8. Transfer to a baking dish. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Let the gratin rest for 5 minutes before devouring.

gratin served

I served my squash gratin with steak and roasted vegetables for dinner. Then I ate some out of the baking dish. Then I ate some for leftovers at lunch the next day. Then it was gone and I felt sad.

So I bought another butternut squash.

A Season of Squash – Five Ways in Five Days

While walking Dexter the dog today, I saw something that caught my eye. Amidst the shriveling jack-o-lanterns and wisps of spider webbing left tangled in the bushes, was the familiar twinkle of Christmas lights. I guess I should have seen it coming. The commercials began the day after Halloween. Decorations have been springing up in the corners of every store for weeks. The holiday season seems to be approaching faster than ever before. Soon fall will be gone, winter will take it’s place, and all of the lovely fall recipes I’ve been creating lately will be out of season! I know the holidays are a tempting time, but let’s try to enjoy the present! When the pumpkin spice lattes start flowing in September and Christmas begins before Thanksgiving, things have gone too far! So in this last breath of fall, I’m giving myself a challenge. Five fall posts in five days, all featuring my new love – squash! Join me on this adventure and enjoy our current season with a few cozy recipes that will keep you feeling warm on these chilly fall nights.

Pumpkin

A Season to Shred – Keto Crockpot Carnitas

If you know me at all, you know that I have a passion for pulled pork. I have a passion for most food, but pulled pork holds a special place in my heart. Unfortunately I am still living the keto life so most barbecue sauces and buns are out of the question, which makes me sad.

Good news! Thanks to Caveman Keto I have found a way to enjoy my beloved pulled pork once again! Crockpot carnitas. I can’t adequately explain in words how amazing this recipe is. The meat LITERALLY fell off of the bone and I was able to shred it with the touch of a fork. It was actually a little difficult to get the cooked pork out of the crockpot to shred because it was falling apart (NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT THAT). The pork was juicy, tender, and truly melted in my mouth. I have now made this recipe twice and it turned out just as amazing the second time. Pork shoulder has now become a staple on my grocery list. Now like I said, this recipe cannot be done justice through a few words and pictures. Try this dish for yourself and you will not be disappointed. Alright I’ve used caps lock too much already, so why don’t I just go ahead and give you the recipe.

Crockpot Carnitas

Shredded Pork

What you’ll need:

  • 1 large pork shoulder
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp chili powder, cumin, and thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp salt and pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • bacon grease (or butter)

What to do:

  1. Retrieve your handy dandy crockpot.
  2. Grease down the inside of the crockpot with bacon grease (or butter if you don’t have reserved bacon grease hanging out in a pickle jar in the back of your fridge).
  3. Thinly slice the yellow onion and layer the slices on the bottom of your crockpot. Disperse the minced garlic evenly over the top of the onions.
  4. Use a sharp knife to cut a deep crisscross pattern into the top of your pork shoulder.
  5. Mix together the salt, pepper, and spices and rub onto the meat. Really dig the spices down into the cuts of the meat.
  6. Place the pork shoulder on top of the onions and garlic and add one cup of water to the bottom of the crockpot. Don’t pour the water directly over the crockpot, you want to keep your spice rub right where it is!
  7. Cover and cook for 8 hours on high. Keep your crockpot in mind though as you’re cooking, mine seems to cook a little faster than other crockpots so I usually have my pork in there for about 6 1/2 – 7 hours instead of the full 8.
  8. Remove pork from crockpot, I suggest using a large slotted spoon for this because the meat should be falling apart, and place in a separate dish. Remove the bone, and shred with a fork.
  9. Give your crockpot a hug.
This is what slow-cooking will do for your meat. I was able to pull this bone out of the pork with zero effort. The meat had completely fallen off of the bone. I am drooling.

This is what slow-cooking will do for your meat. I was able to pull this bone out of the pork with zero effort. The meat had completely fallen off of the bone. I am drooling.

What you do with this amazing pulled pork is now up to you. If you don’t have any sort of dietary restrictions feel free to smother this in barbecue sauce and eat it on a bun. Eat it out of the dish with a fork (that’s what I started to do). Or, you can create a delicious taco bowl like I did. Here’s how you can do it: Place pulled pork in a bowl. Top with sour cream, salsa, cubed avocados, and chopped cilantro. Eat. Get seconds.

Crockpot Carnitas

The finished product is so versatile and best of all, it really only takes about 10 minutes of preparation. You can’t ask for anything better. Enjoy!