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!

Tomato Basil Pizza with Almond Flour Crust

Pizza.

My husband’s kryptonite. A challenge I’ve been dying to accept ever since we made the switch to our keto lifestyle. I had seen recipes for cauliflower crusts, but an Almond Flour Pizza Recipe really caught my eye. Our pizza cravings were at an all time high and I decided it was time to give it a shot.

There were a few hoops I had to jump through to make this meal without cheating. I needed to find a pizza sauce low in sugar and a low carb crust. After looking at the standard pizza sauce I had in the pantry I decided to make my own. I kept this pizza simple and fresh and it turned out delicious. If you’re in the mood for pizza without guilt, give this recipe a try!

Tomato Basil Pizza with Almond Flour Crust

keto pizza

For the crust:

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (I hadn’t gone to the grocery store in a while so I used mozzarella instead)

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 2 tbs fresh basil (roughly chopped)
  • 1 tbs garlic (minced)
  • salt and pepper

Toppings:

  • 1 cup small mozzarella balls
  • 8 fresh basil leaves (torn in half)

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix pizza crust ingredients together in a large bowl. The consistency will seem strange at first (mine stuck to the sides of my standing mixer bowl), but will come together into a squishy ball in your hands.
  3. Spread out the dough on a greased baking sheet. I suggest greasing your hands as well for this process because the dough will be very sticky.
  4. Bake in oven for about 8 minutes, or until dough develops a golden-brown crust.
  5. While the pizza crust is baking, combine cherry tomatoes and garlic in a small sauce pan. Set stove to medium heat.
  6. Cook the tomatoes and garlic until very fragrant and the tomatoes begin breaking down.
  7. Add chopped basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. This sauce will be chunky which is actually how I prefer it, but if you don’t care for large pieces of tomatoes in your sauce, try blending it in a food processor.
  8. When crust is done, remove from oven. Top with sauce, mozzarella balls, and fresh basil leaves.
  9. Return pizza to oven and cook for an additional 8 – 12 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
  10. Eat up!

Although this is a low-carb crust, it held together very well under the weight of the sauce and toppings. It had a unique, almost cornbread-like texture and flavor which I found very appealing. I will be trying this recipe again (and a cauliflower crust recipe) very soon!

Welcome back, pizza.

Caprese Salad in a Season of Celebration

In my family, the Fourth of July has always been celebrated with family and friends, a game or two of bags, fireworks, and, of course, lots and lots of food. I realized that this year I would have to be a bit more strategic in the dish I brought to the family cookout so that it would fit into my new keto diet. I knew there would be several tempting food items at our family get together this year and wanted to make a dish that would be delicious, satisfying, and keep me away from sweets and carbs.
I decided to prepare a caprese salad made with cherry tomatoes and a tangy balsamic dressing for the party. This salad gave me a taste of the sweetness I was craving from staring at rice-krispy treats, berry pies, and chocolate covered pretzels, and was a light and refreshing side to a hot summer day.

Caprese Salad

caprese salad

What you’ll need:

  • 2 – 3 (10 oz) containers of cherry tomatoes (I used a mixture of cherry and sunburst for a pop of color)
  • 1 (8 oz) container of small mozzarella balls
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil (about 10 medium sized leaves)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Rinse and dry the cherry tomatoes. Slice them in half and place in a large bowl.
  2. Drain the package of mozzarella balls and add them to the bowl with tomatoes.
  3. Roughly chop the basil and add to the same bowl.
  4. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. Whisk thoroughly.
  5. Pour the balsamic dressing over the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil and toss to combine.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Though this salad was made with my dietary concerns in mind, everyone at the party enjoyed it and I think you will too!

Baked Avocado and Egg Breakfast

It’s day five of the keto diet (we’ve finally given it a label) and the more research I do on this new lifestyle, the happier I am with my decision to drop carbs and processed sugars!  I have been experiencing a touch of the carb flu (dizziness, feeling light-headed, a little weakness – especially in the legs), but I am feeling inspired and motivated to keep going. I will tell you that drinking A LOT of water will be very helpful in curbing this “flu”.

This morning I decided to try a keto meal that had caught my eye quite some time ago, but was slightly skeptical about – baked avocado and egg. I wasn’t sure how I felt about eating a warm avocado or if I would like the egg/avocado combination, but I am pleased to say that I ended up finding this breakfast very delicious and super satisfying. It was also very easy to make which is always a bonus. I strongly suggest you give this one a try!

Baked Avocado and Egg

Baked Avocado and Egg

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs crumbled bacon
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut one avocado in half. Set the avocado half with the attached pit to the side to use later.
  3. Using a small spoon, scoop out some extra avocado around the center (enough to fit the egg yolk and white). I suggest eating the spooned out avocado with a tiny sprinkle of salt and a drop of lime juice…but that’s just me.
  4. Place the avocado in a small ramekin or a muffin pan to prevent it from rolling around in the oven.
  5. Crack one egg into the center of the avocado and season with salt and pepper. It’s okay if some egg white spills over the edge of the avocado.
  6. Sprinkle crumbled bacon over the top and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.
  7. Once egg is fully cooked, remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes to cool.
  8. Eat while still warm! The egg developed a slight crispy crust around the edges and I strongly recommend using the bacon! The avocado and egg had a soft, creamier texture, so the bacon provided a lovely crunch.

Seriously, give this recipe a try! I will definitely be making this again and again for breakfast.

Day 3 – Chicken Avocado Lettuce Wraps

I foresee lunch being a difficult time of day for me. It’s the middle of the day, I’m usually low on energy, and I start craving salty, crunchy food. Who doesn’t love a big sandwich on thick sliced, toasted bread or a handful of crispy potato chips for lunch?? I was starving on my way home from summer school and knew I had to think of a meal plan before I got home or risk binging on the last sleeve of Ritz crackers I found in the back corner of my pantry. I had tuna wraps in mind, but my plan quickly dissolved after realizing we were out of tuna. Things got a bit dramatic. Then my brilliant husband decided to cook up some chicken instead and we ended up eating a delicious and very satisfying lunch! So here you go, my take on a carb free, non-processed lunch!

Chicken Avocado Lettuce Wraps

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What you’ll need:

  • 2 small cooked chicken breasts
  • 1 large avocado
  • lime juice
  • salt
  • fresh cilantro
  • red onion
  • romaine lettuce

What to do:

  1. Cook chicken breasts as desired. My husband seasoned ours with salt and pepper and grilled it. We added some poultry seasoning as it was cooking. You could easily cook it in a pan on the stove or bake in the oven before adding it to the wrap.
  2. Slice up the chicken and allow it to cool slightly.
  3. Dice avocado into 1/2 inch cubes and sprinkle salt and lime juice over the top. Toss to coat evenly.
  4. Roughly chop 1-2 tbs of fresh cilantro.
  5. Finely slice about 1 tbs of red onion.
  6. Place chicken on a large romaine lettuce leaf and top with avocado, red onion, and cilantro.
  7. Eat! I served mine with fresh strawberries on the side and it was a very cool, refreshing lunch on this hot day!

Banana Bread on a Great Good Friday

As many of you probably know, today is Good Friday! Being a teacher, I had the day off today and thank goodness for that! I decided to use this extra time to do something I hadn’t done in a while – bake! We had a couple of overripe bananas chillin’ out in our freezer so I decided to put them to good use. Though I do not care for bananas in their raw form, I am always down for banana bread. I have been using this recipe, found at The Daily Muse, for a while now and it turns out delicious every time! The crust has a light, crispy crunch and is very soft and moist on the inside. Of course everything gets a little lot better when you add chocolate so I like to fill my banana bread with mini chocolate chips to make it just a bit sweeter. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

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What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 or 2 [large] handfuls of mini chocolate chips

Let’s Bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 ºF.
  2. Cream melted butter and sugar in a large bowl. Mix in the beaten egg and mashed bananas*.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
  4. Stir in lemon juice and chocolate chips. Pour into a well greased loaf pan and bake for 15 minutes at 375 ºF.
  5. After the bread has been baking for 15 minutes reduce the heat to 350 ºF and continue baking for another 45 minutes.

*As soon as our bananas get too many brown spots for the husby’s liking, I put them in the freezer to store them for later use. Freezing the overripe bananas actually makes them a lot easier to mash! When you’re ready to use your frozen bananas, just pop them in the microwave and defrost them for 1 or 2 minutes. The bananas will slide right out of the peel and already have a mushy, mashed up consistency so you can just mix them right into the batter! Very easy and only slightly disgusting.

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