What We Ate – Dad Edition

I mentioned last week that I’d share some of the things we ate while my dad was in town so that’s that I’m gonna do!

If you would have asked me 10 years ago who I’m more like, my mom or my dad, I would have told you, “My mom”, without skipping a beat. I’ve always thought that I was more like her because that’s what most people that know us both tell me, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you were to ask me the same question today I’d answer differently. My dad and I are very similar and I’m a little sad to admit that it’s taken me this long to realize it. My dad and I have similar temperament and our sense of humor is the same, too. We view problems the same way and I think we both like to avoid conflict, as much as we’d like to deny that fact. We both have strong faith in people as well as God and we’re excellent homebodies. Also, we’re both severely addicted to coffee which I’m pretty sure is genetic in our case. Having him here in my home and actually speaking in person versus on the phone or over FaceTime (he lives in Venezuela so we only see each other every few years) was a huge blessing for our family.

One of the things that makes my heart super happy is that over the years my dad has developed a passion for cooking! I remember when I was young and we were still living under the same roof, my dad liked to cook dinner once in a while. My mom handled most of the cooking around the house so I guess it was just on special occasions that he actually got to cook. I consider myself a very fortunate person, I grew up in a household that had two parents who cooked healthy, delicious meals for us kids every day. Never from a box, always fresh and we very rarely went to restaurants or did take-out. Cooking and talking about food is just another awesome thing my dad and I have in common. So here’s what we ate, in no particular order.

A few days before he got here he turned 60! WHAT? So I greeted him at my home with a fresh batch of fried chicken. I don’t think I’ve ever really made fried chicken before. Maybe I’ve tried to ‘fry’ chicken but not the real deal stuff. Well, this is it. It was delicious! I fried it in our cast iron pan and all! I felt very legit. Forgive the photo, it just doesn’t do it justice. I served the chicken with sad-looking biscuits, mashed potatoes and green beans on the side, how Southern of me.

Crispy Fried Chicken // Pancake Saturday I’ve talked to you about arepas before, right? If you haven’t had one in your life then you’re seriously missing out. In Venezuela, arepas are a staple in your house just as sandwich bread would be. You can do anything with them, do you hear me? ANYTHING! And my dad taught me a new way – he added toasted sesame seeds and ground flaxseed to the mix! I was so excited to try them and they tasted so good! We stuffed them with cheese (duh), avocado and slow roasted pork from the previous nights’ tacos.

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Sesame Seed & Flaxseed Arepa // Pancake Saturday Of course we had to bust out a Pancake Saturday staple – pancakes and bacon!untitled-134 One of the days he was here it wasn’t so cold that we could bust out the grill! I was so excited to use it one last time before winter. I grilled ribeye steaks because in my opinion, if it isn’t a ribeye then you’re wasting your time. I roasted cauliflower and made baked sweet potatoes. My dad wanted to learn how to make egg-less Caesar dressing from scratch so we followed this recipe that I had made once before and it doesn’t disappoint. untitled-137
My dad also wanted to learn about spaghetti squash and kale and how to make chili so we did all of those things, too. Once he left Eva and I were so sad we had to make pumpkin muffins to make ourselves feel better. untitled-174We had such a wonderful time with my dad here, I actually made him extend his trip by 2 days before he went off to Atlanta to visit my brother, I didn’t want to let him go!

So that’s what we ate. And if you’re wondering, yes I gained 20 pounds while he was here. So much food.

Kale Pesto

I are you sick of kale yet? I sure hope not.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

I get it. Kale is everywhere, in everything, you don’t even want to look at it anymore. But hear me out. You know how I have a bunch of kids and a husband that travels a lot for work? I love recipes that I can use in everything, for any meal at any time of the day, and this is just that. Let’s take a minute and read over some of the things you could use this kale pesto in. And I’m positive I’m missing some.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

  • Over eggs in the morning or on a breakfast sandwich
  • Mixed into breakfast hash
  • Salad dressing
  • Grilled cheese (!!!)
  • Dipper for roasted veggies/fries
  • Sub for regular tomato pizza sauce
  • Spoon over chicken or fish
  • As a marinade for chicken, seafood or even tofu
  • Tossed with any pasta
  • Pesto lasagna – um, hello?

I could keep listing things. And the health benefits! I know you’ve heard all about them but just in case you haven’t here’s the rundown: tons of iron, vitamin A, calcium and fiber. Eat your kale.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

I know some of you will say that it’s bitter or that you don’t like the way it tastes. But there’s cheese in this so that kind of makes everything better, right? Also, the lemon juice and zest helps cut the bitter undertones kale has sometimes and brightens up the whole thing. Works perfectly.

Kale Pesto
Yields approx. 1 cup

4 cups chopped kale, about 1 medium bunch, ribs removed
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese (I used the kind out of the green shaker – don’t judge me)
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all the ingredients, except for the oil, to a food processor. Turn it on a slowly stream in the oil. DONE. This will keep in the freezer for up to 4 weeks.

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday
Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

Kale Pesto // Pancake Saturday

Finding The Light

Disclaimer: I’m sorry if you’re squeamish, I briefly talk about Eva’s injury.

It has been an emotionally draining week at our house. We’ve had many ouchies and kissing of boo-boos. We also had an injury that sent Eva to Urgent Care. Thankfully she’s okay, just bruised up but I know it could have been worse. She wanted to sit at the adult table to eat her lunch like a big girl. Of course she’d sat at the table many times before so I agreed. If you have a toddler you know they absolutely cannot sit still, it’s in their nature. I turned my back to change one of the twins’ diapers and heard the loud bang that all moms associate with their child falling and hitting their heads. When I turned around I saw Eva on the floor face down, she’d fallen out of the chair. I immediately ran over to her and scooped her up and ran back over to the changing table so the baby wouldn’t fall, too. When I finally peeled her off of my shoulder I noticed a lot of blood in her mouth and a very swollen jaw.

After I got her to settle down (and put the baby in a safe place) I got a good look at her mouth and noticed she bit the inside of her cheek, but man, if I hadn’t already heard that mouth injuries produce a lot of blood I would have been freaking out. Her face was what really concerned me. After talking to Mr. HC about the injury and sending him a photo, we decided to take her to get an x-ray to be sure her jaw wasn’t broken. Eva was a trooper and she allowed the doctor to look her over, but that’s no surprise. I’m pretty sure I have the only child on the planet who loves going to the doctor. No broken bones just a swollen, banged up girl. She’s in great spirits and loves telling everyone about the bruise on her face. I wish I could say that fall was the hardest thing I’ve encountered this week.

We have a few family friends that were dealt really scary hands this week. One was in a car accident that should have killed her but only because God was watching over her she survived. Her recovery will take months and I can’t pretend that I know what that’s like. My other friend is having surgery today to remove what would have been her third baby from her womb. I can’t imagine hearing the heartbeat one week and not the next. Also, something I know nothing about.

The thing is, I could sit here in my house and think to myself that it’s not really my problem to worry for others because I have three kids to think about. Or I could say, “Wow, so glad my family is okay”. But what would that say about me? Where is the compassion and love God commands us to show for our neighbors? It’s easy to forget what others’ pain is when we don’t have to confront it every day.

At the end of the day when all the kids are in bed, the last bottle washed and toy picked up, I think the same thing to myself,  “Wow, what a day it’s been”. And do you know that every day I wake up thinking maybe I won’t have that thought today? Maybe the kids and I will have a ‘good’ day. What does that even mean? A day where I don’t have to raise my voice? A day where I don’t have to rescue Pierre from Olivia’s clutches because she’s using him as a step stool AGAIN?

I admit that I get caught up in day-to-day frustrations and I don’t look at the whole picture. Instead of thinking about how exhausting it can be to care for 3 small children I could be thanking God for giving me the opportunity to stay home with them. If your kids aren’t in daycare, everything they learn from the time they are born until they go to school comes directly from your mouth (and your spouse’s mouth). Kind of a scary thought, but it done’t have to be. You can choose to find the light in every situation. You can choose to control your temper, you choose the words that come out of your mouth and you choose your actions. Just as you choose to show compassion and love for your neighbor.

You can choose to find the light every day. The light that will give you peace and hope. The light that will comfort you when you’re down or give you strength when you just can’t take another step. For me the light is Jesus.

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders

Hi! I don’t know how two weeks went by this fast but they did! Sorry I’ve been MIA. My dad came to visit two weeks ago and I hadn’t seen him in over 2 years! I didn’t want anything to get in the way of us spending some quality time together so I just decided to not post. We cooked so much great food though! I’ll be sure to tell you about that at a later date. Fast forward to last week, the kids and I came down with a serious cold. We didn’t leave the house AT ALL. It was terrible but now we’re all much better and I’m back in the kitchen. Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

Which is good news for you because I made these amazing chicken tenders last night that you need to make tonight. Like, seriously, tonight. I wanted to follow one of Jessica’s recipes from her glorious cookbook but, in true Jamily fashion, it was a snap decision and I didn’t have all of the ingredients so I improvised a bit. Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

I didn’t have chicken tenders on hand, and honestly I don’t recall a time I’ve actually bought them. But after trying this recipe I think I’m going to make the sacrifice ;). Jessica’s recipe calls for chicken tenders but I just cut up two chicken breasts in about the size of tenders. It worked perfectly!

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard
Serves 2 – 4, adapted from Seriously Delish

2 chicken breasts, trimmed of fat & cut into 4 pieces of equal thickness
2 cups low-fat buttermilk*
3 cups salted pretzels, I always buy Snyder’s
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey

Add the chicken to a bowl and cover with buttermilk. Allow to sit covered in the refrigerator for 2 – 4 hours, overnight would be best.

Preheat the oven to 425F and take the chicken out of the fridge. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top, lightly spray with non-stick pray. Add the pretzels to a food processor and grind to fine crumbs, add to large bowl. With a fork take the chicken out of the buttermilk (it will have a thick coating of buttermilk), one piece at a time, and coat it with the pretzel crumbs. Shake off any excess and place the chicken on the wire rack, spray the chicken with a light coating of non-stick spray

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

Bake for 15 minutes, gently flip each piece and bake for another 10 minutes. While the chicken cooks mix the mustard and honey in  small bowl. Serve the chicken warm with honey mustard. Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders // Pancake Saturday

I paired these with the perfect french fries, too! Please tell me you’ll make these!

*If you don’t have any buttermilk you can make your own by thinning out some plain Greek yogurt with water until it’s the viscosity of buttermilk. Works like a charm!

Seven-Spice Sweet Potato Fries with Curry Garlic Sauce

Today we’re talking about spiced sweet potatoes. Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes? For one they’re delicious, they’re versatile (my favorite quality in food) and so good for you! Now you have no excuse to not eat these. 7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

Let’s talk spices for a minute. I never knew there was a 7-spice mix until my mom came to visit when Eva was born. We were buying groceries to stock up on food just a few days before she was due and my mom turned to me and asked if I had 7-spice at home. The look on my face probably told her everything she needed to know because she promptly picked up a jar to buy. Turns out that it’s a Lebanese spice mix I had savored many times while enjoying my grandmother’s cooking. Thankfully I live close to Dearborn, Michigan which has a large Middle Eastern demographic and makes for good eats. But don’t worry if you can’t find a Middle Eastern market near you, you can make your own, and you should because the stuff is delicious and goes with just about everything. I went a totally different way with the dipping sauce, but trust me on this one – it just goes. Greek yogurt makes is healthy, right?
7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

7-Spice Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2

1-2 large sweet potato, cut into matchsticks
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp 7-spice mix
salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425F. In a large bowl add the ingredients for the sweet potatoes and toss. Arrange on a baking rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. I actually just use a cookie cooling rack and it works great but you can put them directly on the baking sheet if you don’t have one. Bake the potatoes for 20 – 25 minutes or until they are cooked through and to your desired crispness. While the potatoes are cooking make the dipping sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the potatoes warm with the sauce on the side! 7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

Curry Garlic Yogurt
yields 1/2 cup

1/2 Greek yogurt, I used non-fat
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 small garlic clove, grated (for a milder garlic flavor add 1/4 tsp of garlic powder)

7-Spice Sweet Potato Fries w/ Curry Garlic Sauce

Thoughts for Thursday

My brain works today, awesome!

1. Let’s start with some of the things we’ve eaten in the last week. I’m not really sure what to call this one, it’s kind of a cross between a taco and a quesadilla but I can tell you that it’s 100% delicious. Cheesy, warm, comforting and makes for a super quick dinner when you’re in a pinch. Would you like the recipe?

Thoughts For Thursday // Pancake Saturday

2. If you haven’t bought Jessica’s new cookbook I only have 1 question for you: why not? The recipes that I’ve tried so far are all delicious and it’s just so well-written. She dives into stories from her childhood and her passion for food. I’ve never met her but her book makes me feel like I know her in real life (creepy?). Anyway, after you buy it you can make this jalapeño and pineapple pizza with bourbon vanilla barbecue sauce. Uh, yeah, it’s amazing. We added plain roasted chicken but it really didn’t need it.

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3. Oh! Oh! Here’s another easy lunch/dinner. Roast a plain chicken breast, slice it and toss it with pesto (store bought or homemade), add to a BLT on toast with a little more pesto on the bread. Done. These were HUGE.

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4. The day I made these dream bars I ran 5 miles. FIVE! For the first time in my life, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was definitely a challenge and I was going at a nice slow pace, it took me almost one hour to get there. I stopped a time or two to have a drink of water but for the most part I kept going. It was such a mind game, too. I kept telling myself that my body was a machine and it could keep going. It was HARD but I did it. And tomorrow I’m going for another five miles. Possibly followed by another sweet recipe.untitled-79
5. We’ve been working on potty training Eva for about a month now and she’s doing great. She’s had the occasional accident here and there but of course that’s expected. It hasn’t been as terrible as I feared it would be. We’ve just had her in a diaper when she naps/sleeps and when we go out. Last weekend we took the plunge and took her out without a diaper for the first time for a short time. This is her before we left the house, she was so excited! She did great and no accidents while we were out! untitled-113
6. Last week sometime, when we were leaving for the gym, I noticed landscapers around our neighborhood digging holes everywhere and I had no clue what they were doing. When we got back I noticed these beauties! This tree in particular is smack dab in front of our door so it’s the first thing I see when I step outside. Talk about a beautiful color. The color in the photo doesn’t do it justice, it’s so much more bright and almost has a pink tinge to it. Simply amazing. God’s creativity genuinely astounds me on a daily basis. untitled-168

Sweet & Salty Cookie Dream Bars

I’m sorry but not really.

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These are so good I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I should start by telling you that this recipe is the reason I made you a tuna wrap last week. You’re going to want to bust that lunch out on the day you make these bars because you’ll find it very hard to not eat the whole pan in one sitting. Trust me.

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I started with my very favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, tweaked it a bit and then piled a whole bunch of marshmallows (impulse buy) and pretzels on top. If you follow me on Instagram then you know that I bought these amazing Toll House peanut butter filled milk chocolate chips (also an impulse buy) and I just had to put them in these bars. They are really delicious and I would have used just those but I like the slightly bitter taste of the semi-sweet chocolate chips in combination with the sweetness of the milk chocolate ones. So I used both, problem solved. untitled-11One of the things I love about this recipe is that almost every bite has different flavors, it’s impossible to get bored while eating these. Some bites taste like a delicious chocolate chip cookie, some bites you taste all the peanut butter, some bites are all about the toasted marshmallow and just when you think these might be too sweet you’re surprised by a salty, crunchy bite from the pretzel. You really need to make these.

Sweet & Salty Cookie Dream Bars
12 bars, (cookie layer adapted from this recipe)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup organic coconut oil, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Nestle Toll House Peanut Butter Filled DelightFulls
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup crushed pretzels

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with enough foil so there is some overhang on the sides and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a stand mixer, beat the coconut oil and sugars until light and fluffy, then add the egg and vanilla extract. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until completely combined. Gently stir in both chocolate chips until evenly distributed making sure not to break the filled chips, you can do this by hand.

Put the dough into the baking pan and with your hands gently press the dough into a single layer.untitled-12Bake for 10 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and set to broil. Add the marshmallows to the cookie and place it under the broiler for 1 -2 minutes or until they’re toasted to your liking – be careful because they will brown very quickly!

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Remove from oven and immediately press the pretzels into the marshmallows, you can do this with a spatula or your hands but be careful not to burn yourself. untitled-20

Allow the cookie to cool and rest for 30 minutes. Once it’s cooled, gently lift it out of the pan using the foil overhang. Cut into 12 squares and enjoy!

untitled-31Really, though? Come on.