In the Kitchen Lately

I don't know about you, but I go through seasons in my kitchen. Some seasons I make the same dishes over and over; because we like them, because they are easy, or because I know them like the back of my hand and they are comfort on a plate.  Winter brings that out in me. But I usually reach a point mid spring when I just don't want the same things anymore. Anyone else?? Sometimes a girl needs to shake it up a little, you know? 

My kids are not super picky eaters, although they are still kids. One day their favorite meal barely warrants a bite and other days they'll try the one thing I swore they'd never eat. They are about as predictable as the weather! Because I am trying to raise experimental eaters, I try to put new things in front of them all the time but I don't always believe they'll go for it. Sometimes I'm shocked and sometimes I agree to yogurt and string cheese instead. Or noodles. Ava is on a buttered noodles with parmesan kick and some days the battle is just not worth the fight! I'd rather have peace than tears and consequences over food. So we give grace but we try to instill a gratitude for what we're given and a desire to not waste whats in front of us. They are both getting more and more adventurous. Ava will eat quite a variety of foods and she's almost always up for whatever I make. Carter isn't there yet but he's getting better and better at trying new things. The bottom line is that their food preferences have nothing to do with their godliness or character (really) so we're not stressed about it. I think life is easier when your palette is broad but "whatevs" as our students say :) 

So, basically the person I'm trying to appease with my cooking is my man. He is the biggest eater around here and cooking is one of the ways I express my love for him. It works for us :) As we've gotten older and been together for a decade now, our palettes have really broadened too and we've both turned into foodies, kind of. We're not crazy or super weird but we both love a meal out and we like to try new things all the time at home. So we've got some new things in the rotation lately that I thought I'd share with you. Three of them are from PW (pioneer woman), one is my Mom's and one I just threw together one night. So here you go, here are a few things on our plates lately... 
Homemade granola. My Mom's recipe (she got it from a magazine years ago) that is so easy and super delish! Why I haven't made this earlier I don't know?? She makes it for Trav when we come to their house and we all love it. One recipe makes two big batches and it freezes really well, so we usually eat half and freeze the other. We both love it with milk, with yogurt, on ice-cream or just by the handful. This version had dried blueberries, craisins and golden raisins in it but you could do whatever you like. Oats and a variety of nuts are the other ingredients, along with olive oil and vanilla. It takes about 30 min to make and it's very worth the effort. Next time I'm going to add a little cinnamon for a different flavor. Google it. There are a million versions out there! 
PW's Chicken Parmesan. Oh my stars, was this good!!!! Like a hands down, top 10 dish in our opinion. We loved it!!! It's in her second cookbook and probably on her website too. It's not that hard and it made a lot of sauce which we used for a couple of days afterwards. I know people complain that her dishes are so rich and use too much cream and butter but the truth is, they aren't all like that. Some are, but you can always substitute with a leaner ingredient or you can just relax a little. One cup of cream in a recipe that serves 8 means you aren't consuming all that much by yourself.  

*Fair warning**-I'm about to rant...I get so sick of this country's obsession over "health food", excessive label reading and whether it's "organic" or not. Don't get me started on that craze. I'm all for healthy choices, but watching this generation of teenagers struggle so greatly with body image and food related disorders and self mutilation, leads me to conclude that we're food/body obsessed. Good and bad, by the way. We tend to freak out over the extremes and I'm saying let's just relax, gain some perspective and live in moderation. A great dessert with real butter is not worth a protest and does not warrant a 10 mile run because you had half a piece. Good grief, what messages are we sending with this workout crazed, food depriving culture we're creating??? Listen, I'm not anti-working out and I understand legit food allergies require watching every bite and knowing every ingredient. Moderation and good health is what I'm talking about with less emphasis on what size we are or aren't. *End rant*

Eat some chicken Parmesan and just enjoy it!! This dish is surprisingly healthy with NO cream, so all you cream haters can just relax :) PW has really taught me how to make great, homemade tomato based sauces and that is my favorite part of this meal. Travis and the kids and I ate it up! 
I came up with this one night when Trav was gone and we've had some variation of it a couple times now. I called it girl food on Instagram but actually Trav liked it too! Tomatoes, avocado, and fresh mozzarella tossed in Olive Oil and Vinegar salad dressing from Newman's Own that we love! Light and healthy. We had it with some romaine too and it would also be yummy with a balsamic vinegarette. Perfect summer food. 

This is another PW recipe from her second cookbook. BBQ chicken and pineapple quesadillas. You could adapt these several ways but I baked and shredded some chicken, tossed it in BBQ sauce and set it aside. It calls for grilled pineapple and that is the highlight of this dish! So, so good! She combines the chicken and pineapple with cheese and a jalapeño but I'm not a spicy girl so I substituted that with caramelized onion instead. It was amazing and really, really easy!!! Quesadillas in my cast iron skillet are second to none. They get a perfect golden crunch on the outside with a melted center inside and they are heavenly. I make plain cheese quesadillas for my kids all the time and we love them. This is a great dish and you can serve it with guac, pico, or salsa and sour cream. The tang of the BBQ chicken with the sweet pineapple and a hint of the grill, are a divine trio of flavors. You should make these! Tonight! I've got some more quesadilla combos on the way to try too. It's such an easy way to hide some ingredients from the kids under the guise of cheese!! 
Finally, last night I made PW's homemade pizza crust with a twist on her Potato Leek Pizza. I kind of made this up on the fly but it was really good! We all  ate it, but Trav and I loved it. I took pics while I made it so here you go...
Her Homemade Crust. Easy and yummy!
Pressed on a pan drizzled with olive oil and then drizzled again on top. 
Caramelized onion, bacon (turkey bacon in our house) and ham, lightly sautéed. 
The craziest ingredient, potatoes!! Sliced paper thin to add a little crunch. I used my mandolin slicer and you would have to have one to make these thin enough. 
Fresh mozzarella slices on top. Did you notice there is no sauce?? Just cheese and potatoes and olive oil as the base. Yummy!! 
Onion, bacon and ham on top of the mozzarella. 
A sprinkle of Parmesan too! 
12 minutes later and this happened! My only modification for next time? I'd bake the crust first for 3 or 4 minutes, just to get the middle nice and crispy. Hard to do that with all the toppings without burning the edges. 
So, so good! A salty guys pizza for sure :) Next time we're doing a margarita version for me! 

So there you have it, a few things in the kitchen at our house lately that I highly recommend! What about you? What are you making these days that we need to try?? All this rain means lots of baking and cooking for us :) I've always got two kitchen helpers ready and willing to assist me; Ava reminds me daily that she is a "really good cooker!"  I love being in the kitchen but I fully embrace that not everyone does. I hate to balance a checkbook and I know some of you live for that! So no guilt if cooking is not your thing. Believe me, we consume plenty of frozen pizzas and frozen chicken nuggets over here too :) 

Hope you have a happy Wednesday, friends!! What's on the menu at your house tonight? Just curious...

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